While homebirths are on the rise, the majority of NY residents (~99% to be more precise) will choose to birth in a hospital. Even so, we generally seek out an environment that is as close to home as possible when it’s time to birth. Fortunately, our local hospital birth options recognize this and are proud of their recent strides towards making the hospital as comfortable as possible. Living in the North Country, our options are limited – but I went to go see three local hospital birth options and ask important questions about routine birth practices at the hospitals within driving distance of Plattsburgh (and without requiring a ferry ride!).
Adirondack Medical Center, Saranac Lake
Births per year: ~200
Water births: No*
Csection rate: 41% overall; primary 25%; repeat 15%**
VBACs: Not offered
Food during labor: no hospital policy, depends on the practitioner
Lactation consultant on staff: Yes
Doula on staff: No, but families are strongly encouraged to include a doula on their birth team
Visitor policy: 9am-9pm; limited to two visitors during labor
The first thing you notice when you walk onto the labor and delivery floor at Adirondack Health, is that everyone is warm, welcoming, and the atmosphere is relaxed. The hospital embraces its small community hospital status. This allows the experience to be entirely personalized. Whenever I asked a question about eating during labor or how much movement women typically have in labor or any number of questions – the answer was “it depends” over and over again. The staff talked about how they are committed to working with women to meet their birth goals and preferences, so “it depends” on the birthing families needs and desires.
The obstetric care provided by the hospital is all hospital based. This means that you go to the hospital for your prenatal appointments and have likely met many of the labor and delivery staff by the time you arrive to birth your baby. And they know you and you know them. This also means that when you call the office, you get a nurse on the labor and delivery floor – not an answering service.
Throughout your pregnancy, the staff get to know you and work hard to accommodate your birth preferences.
Free childbirth/infant care classes are offered every-other-month. This is a four week series that covers childbirth, breastfeeding, infant care, and infant cpr.
The rooms are home-y (hardwood floors, a good sized “dorm” refrigerator, private bathrooms, etc) and the room you birth in will be the room you stay in throughout your stay (a labor/delivery/recovery room) – if you haven’t experienced a hospital birth, this is a huge plus!
There is a small kitchen on the floor, that you and your partner are welcome to use.
While we’re talking about food – Adirondack Health works closely with local farmers and aims to source food as seasonally and locally as possible. Their experienced chef comes with unmatched skill and gives the hospital reason to be proud of the food served to their patients.
*While birthing in the water is not permitted, in deference to the hospital pediatric department, laboring in the jacuzzi tubs located in each room is encouraged.*
**Should you need a cesarean section, the labor and delivery floor has a committed operating room right on the floor – for minimal disruption. While the csection rate has been high historically at Adirondack Health, this rate is on a downward trend. The hospital is working actively to hire obstetricians who are interested in supporting the hospital’s goal of lowering their c-section rate. In the short term, this number will slowly decline as Adirondack Health is not set up to provide vbacs at this time.**
Natural births are encouraged, but epidurals are available upon request.
With two lactation consultants on staff, you’ll be sure to get a visit during your postpartum stay. These International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are available after you go home too – they are just a phone call away or you can always stop in. This service contributes to the 72% breastfeeding success rate last year.
Postpartum follow ups are usually done within the first few weeks after birth.
Serving birthing families in the Saranac Lake area for over 100 years, the hospital prides itself on its individualized care and its increasing commitment to supporting natural birth.
Bonus: The staff at Adirondack Health are very proud of the gorgeous lake views outside of their rooms, and with good reason!
Alice Hyde Medical Center, Malone
Births per year: 250
Water births: No*
Csection rate: Primary 7%; repeat 21%**
Food during labor: depends on the practitioner, but the midwives are relaxed when it comes to eating while in labor
Lactation consultant on staff: Yes***
Doula on staff: No
Visitor policy: A support person is welcome, 24/7. Siblings are welcome morning to 9pm. Regular visiting hours are noon to 8:30pm
Alice Hyde Medical Center is everything wonderful about the North Country. Down to earth, unapologetic, and easy going. What this means is, their c-section statistic is incredibly low – but they just take that in stride, like it’s normal. They are emphatic about informing families of all the risks, benefits, and alternatives – empowering families to decide what path they want to take.
With four birth practitioners you’re sure to know all of the birth providers at Alice Hyde Medical Center, when you arrive in labor. Each room is a labor, delivery, and recovery room (and, if you didn’t read this above – this is a huge plus in my mind!). As a hospital-based practice, the two midwives and two obstetricians are the only care providers with hospital privileges at Alice Hyde. That means they all know you and you know all of them and they work closely with one another. You have ample opportunity to discuss your birth concerns and desires throughout your pregnancy during prenatal appointments. Each patient has a practitioner who is their primary care provider, but you are encouraged to meet each obstetrician and midwife during your pregnancy.
**Primary (first time) cesarean section rates at Alice Hyde are low. In large part, this can be attributed to equal representation of midwives and obstetricians at this hospital. An obstetric model that supports low interventions during birth is another factor. VBACs are available, but not many women are seeking out VBACs at Alice Hyde at this time. The medical staff stipulate who is eligible for a VBAC and VBAC births happen in the operating room.**
*While water births are not permitted, there are jacuzzi tubs available for relief during active labor.*
One Yale trained midwife had experience with nitrous oxide use for labor. As a result, very recently nitrous oxide has been added to a list of labor options for women birthing at Alice Hyde. Nitrous oxide is not available anywhere else locally.
Baths for the baby are routinely delayed 8-10 hours, to minimize disruption between the baby and family and encourage bonding.
Birth classes take place every other month and last approximately six hours on one day. This class includes extensive information about birth (including birth plans and labor management options), as well as infant cpr, newborn care, breastfeeding, and car seat safety. These classes are free and open to any expecting couple – no matter where they plan to give birth.
***Four of the maternity care nurses are certified lactation consultants. The schedule is arranged to ensure that at least one certified lactation consultant nurse is present during the day.
Bonus: One of the staff obstetricians will assist eligible couples in birthing twins and/or breech babies vaginally. Like during VBAC births, these births take place in the operating room.
Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, Plattsburgh
Births per year: 1,000
Water births: no, but jet tubs are available during labor*
Csection rate: 32%
Vbac rate: Yes, 5%
Food during labor: at the discretion of the practitioner (clear liquids after any medication has been administered)
Lactation consultant on staff: Yes*
Doula on staff: No
Visitor policy: Siblings are welcome any time; four support people are permitted during labor
The majority of babies born in Clinton County NY, are born in Plattsburgh at Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital. Even so, CVPH is considered a small community hospital and offers a lot for its size. The hospital is served by two obstetric practices, Associates in OB/GYN and Lake Champlain OB/GYN. The two practices share on call rotations, meaning the provider attending your birth may come from your OB office, or may come from the other office.
Rooms are large, bright, and comfortable with ample space to move around. *All labor and delivery rooms come with access to a jet tub for labor relief, while you are med-free (so if you have pitocin to speed up labor or an epidural to manage discomfort, you will be unable to use the water).*
Skin-to-skin care is a priority at CVPH from the moment of birth. Babies are routinely placed on their mother’s chest and left uninterrupted for at least an hour, whenever possible. After this initial bonding time and the baby is weighed and measured. The family is moved to a cozy recovery room where they’ll stay for the remainder of their time at the hospital.
Birth classes are available in five-week blocks or as a two-day weekend course. This class covers nutrition, childbirth, postpartum care, and infant care. A separate breastfeeding class is offered monthly and designed for expecting parents.
Breastfeeding is an essential component of CVPH’s measure of success. With full time lactation consultants on staff, every single family will be seen daily during their stay – whether they choose to bottle feed or breastfeed. As a result, 80% of moms are breastfeeding when they leave the hospital. After their hospital stay, an outpatient lactation clinic is available as well as phone support.
Bonus: CVPH is the place where many families choose to birth and is the closest option for thousands of families. When you’re in labor – that shorter drive can be a big bonus!
Choosing your Birth Location
Every local hospital kindly shared this information with me and it was incredible to see the passion every hospital has for supporting families through their birth experiences.
When trying to choose the ideal location for you and your family when planning a birth, it’s wise to consult with friends who have recently birthed and your doula. They will have current insight into what each option offers and what location will best match your birthing goals. As a birthing family, you want to hire a birth team that best supports you.