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Jul 10, 2018 9:39 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Local Group Advocating For Changes At Stony Brook Southampton Maternity Ward

Sara Topping, president of the East End Birth Network. ELSIE BOSKAMP
Jul 11, 2018 11:11 AM

The East End Birth Network, a recently formed nonprofit, is pushing for a host of changes in the maternity department at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, saying they are based on heightened concerns for the health of expectant mothers and their babies.

Officials from the group, which comprises local moms on the South Fork, have met with hospital officials to discuss their concerns. The group is advocating for an enhanced midwifery program, an on-site neonatal intensive care unit, a round-the-clock hospitalist on staff in the maternity ward, as well as encouraging the hospital to seek “baby-friendly status,” a global program that encourages breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact and other postpartum natural care options aimed at optimizing both maternal and infant health.

According to the group’s president, Sara Topping of Southampton, all of the suggestions are aimed at supporting women, enhancing care and improving birth options on the East End.

“We support the midwifery option of care, because it is much more focused on women, and women’s overall health, and it really supports the mother,” Ms. Topping said.

Ms. Topping noted that unlike Stony Brook University Hospital, where there is a team of 16 midwives, the Southampton hospital only has one midwife on staff.

“If you look at obstetricians and gynecologists, their training is in surgery, and moms are having babies with doctors who are surgeons instead of with care providers that are trained in normal physiological birth,” Ms. Topping said. “And all of this correlates to over-medicalizing birth, more C-sections, and to maternal and infant death.”

Officials from Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, which has the only maternity ward on the South Fork, claimed that there are no records of infant mortality at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital in the recent past. Ms. Topping, however, said she was aware of two maternal and one infant death that have happened this year in Southampton, factors that are driving her mission to get local women and infants access to top-notch natural care and birth options.

According to the Birth Network, limited options all but force women to have their babies at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, where a group of doctors are constantly on call to deliver babies and assist women in labor. Ms. Topping, who gave birth to her third child, Gardiner, at her Southampton home last year, noted that home birth is a second option, but there are only two midwife groups on Long Island that provide home birth options. The closest, Gaia Midwives, is located in Riverhead.

Ms. Topping added that this limited access can potentially be deadly in emergency situations because, she said, it could take up to 20 minutes for a pregnant woman’s doctor to drive to the hospital and begin assisting in labor. For home birth, travel times for midwives are even longer, she noted, explaining that her midwife didn’t get to her house in time to assist her in her labor, so her husband, Peter, delivered Gardiner on his own.

Representatives from Stony Brook Southampton Hospital did not respond to questions about how long it takes a doctor to get to the hospital in such scenarios, but noted that the facility has hired four neonatal nurse practitioners in the past six months to assist with newborn care. Further, officials said that when babies born in Southampton need extra care, they are transferred to the Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Stony Brook.

In a statement, Alyssa Melillo, communications coordinator at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, said that hospital officials “look forward to an ongoing conversation about how to decrease the infant mortality rates within the communities we serve.”

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