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Healthy You

Call the Midwives: An Alternate Labor and Delivery Experience

Monday, June 15, 2020 2:17 PM

Brandi Vigil worked and exercised through her entire pregnancy, even doing rigorous cross-fit training up to a couple of days before giving birth to her son, Lennox. Vigil jokingly described her pregnancy as so trouble-free, it was almost boring. But the baby’s delivery turned out to be anything but boring!

Brandi Vigil family


Worth the Wait
Vigil and her wife Darcy Leslie of Rogers Park were deliberate about planning for the upcoming birth. Instead of partnering with an OB/GYN, they chose the Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) program at Swedish Hospital—one of Chicagoland’s largest and most diverse teams—to support the couple through the pregnancy, labor and delivery.

The 35-year-old Vigil had very clear preferences about the kind of experience she wanted, including no pain medication and no IVs.

“The midwives were so wonderful, reinforcing the idea that your body knows what to do and they’ll help guide you,” she said. But Vigil’s experience was nothing like she had planned as she was in labor for days. She ultimately requested nitrous gas and an epidural before giving birth to a healthy Lennox on December 9, 2018.

Vigil and Leslie were grateful to the entire team of midwives who supported them at every twist and turn, including CNM Rachel Blumenthal, who delivered Lennox. “Rachel kept telling me I was doing great and gave me confidence,” recalled Vigil. “What I took away from the whole experience is that patients are really at the center of the midwives’ practice. They never contradicted us or went against what we wanted.”

“Our goal is to help Brandi and other moms-to-be have the birth experience they want,” explained Blumenthal. “Education is an important part of what we do for patients. They have the same testing and appointment schedule throughout their pregnancy that other providers offer. We explain the reason for all of their various screenings along the way.”

Full Spectrum of Care
Swedish midwifery patients deliver in the hospital with access to all the labor and delivery resources as necessary, added Blumenthal. “We have a great group of physicians we work with—and at the end of the day, our ultimate goal is to have a healthy mom and a healthy baby.”

With Swedish Hospital now part of NorthShore, the combined women’s health teams are setting new standards of innovation in childbirth services. This includes the labor and delivery programs at Evanston Hospital and Highland Park Hospital, which are offering expanded midwifery services as well.

Treating You Like Family
“It’s important to understand that patient safety is always the priority, and our CNMs have the highest level of specialized training and work collaboratively with our physicians,” noted Richard Silver, MD, The Auxiliary of NorthShore Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “We think the best strategy is tight integration and connectivity across the department for all of our providers.”

“We know some patients prefer midwives throughout the labor and delivery process,” said Dr. Silver, who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. “With the same high quality and safety outcomes, midwives offer a perfect blend of medicine and personal
care within the context of a collaborative department.”

Vigil and Leslie also were part of Swedish Hospital’s CenteringPregnancy® program that brings groups of women with similar due dates together to discuss and share related issues. “As first-time parents, we wanted to go through the experience with others and forge a community,” emphasized Leslie.

“The midwives were extremely accessible,” said Vigil. “I could get in to see them the same day if I had a question. Or, we felt totally comfortable calling anytime to run something past them.”

Support For High-risk Moms
NorthShore CNM Gina Russano offers high-risk patients that same level of attentive and compassionate care at Evanston Hospital, where she plays a key role in the Maternal-Fetal Medicine team. Russano provides education, advocacy, psychological support and more for women with high-risk pregnancies.

“We’re trying to give these women the best possible experience, and they need midwifery care as much as—or even more than—the women with uncomplicated, healthy pregnancies,” said Russano. “My physician colleagues are so amazing in what they provide for families. We see everything here, including many serious medical issues.

For some patients, it can be overwhelming—so I try and give them some control back in a scary situation.”

“Those of us on the Swedish team have worked with NorthShore’s Maternal-Fetal Medicine team for a long time. They’re the best people to work with,” added Blumenthal.

Beyond the care itself, the midwifery programs also forge lasting relationships that go both ways.

“We took Lennox to see the midwives on his first birthday,” Vigil recounted. “He loves to dance, and it turned into a big dance party. It was so great to see Rachel and everyone!”

“For me, it’s an honor to be a part of a birth experience,” said Blumenthal. “Even in a bad situation, you can be there to validate the experience. It’s a crazy, intense and special time.”