Valley Hospital program lowers cesarean rate, empowers pregnant women

In today’s fast-paced, technology-based society, expectant families are bombarded with pregnancy information. Because of the amount of information available, it may be difficult for families to decide which sources are reliable.

The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., identified this issue and developed a program that focuses on empowering pregnant women and their families.

Even though most American women and newborns are healthy, according to, trends have shown women who give birth experience high rates of interventions with corresponding risks and side effects. Healthcare providers agree some interventions are needed, yet mothers and babies would benefit from using alternative practices first and relying on interventions for well-supported indications only when the alternative measures are inadequate.

The Center for Holistic Birth was founded at Valley to combat the increasing rate of cesarean sections and inductions and to empower women to make choices about their birth and the labor-and-delivery process. The program, which began in 2009, fosters a relationship between the childbearing family and their healthcare team.

“Holistic birth makes giving birth more of an intimate personal experience for the patient and family,” said Jennifer Guzman, RN,C-OB, BSN, a labor-and-delivery nurse at Valley.

The holistic practice focuses on educating women and their support systems about the choices and challenges associated with pregnancy, delivery and beyond.

Patients are referred to the hospital-based program by their obstetrician or certified nurse-midwife.

After patients are referred, they meet with a nurse-midwife as many times as they want during their pregnancies. The free service facilitates dialogue between patients, physicians and other members of the healthcare team, fostering better communication. Information discussed during these sessions includes induction of labor, cesarean section, labor support techniques, use of doulas and laboring in a tub for pain relief.

“The holistic birth program is fine-tuned to empower women to ask for and receive the labor and birth they desire,” said Jackie Smith, RN, BSN, a labor-and-delivery nurse at Valley.

More than 300 patients have participated in the program since 2010, with an average of 20 patients delivering per month. Statistically, holistic birth participants at Valley have a cesarean section rate of 24.7% compared to the general hospital rate of 46.4%.

At Valley Hospital in Ridgewood, N.J., Beth A. McGovern, RN,C-OB, MSN, is a clinical practice specialist of women and children’s services, and Heidi Z. Brenner, RN, MSN, CNM, is a holistic birth coordinator.

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