Birth centers keeping babies, mothers together after dangerous deliveries



Posted on March 27, 2010 at 5:40 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:45 AM

One in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. The most seriously affected often spend their crucial first hours or days separated from their mothers.

Now, new delivery units are designed to keep these high-risk  babies and their mothers together.

You'd never suspect Maggie had to fight to live from the moment she was born. Molly Kelly learned halfway through her pregnancy her baby had a serious birth defect.

"There's no way you can help your child except to love them," said Molly.

At 25 weeks, fetal heart specialists detected a defect that would restrict blood flow to the baby's lungs. Doctors told the Kellys their baby would need surgery right after delivery.  Instead of transferring the baby to a specialized hospital, doctors pass the baby through a window to surgeons waiting next door.

"Had we not been able to jump in immediately, the outcome would not have been a good as it is," said Dr. Jack Rychik, Director of the Fetal Heart Program at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

It's the first high-risk delivery room in the world where mom gives birth and stays near the baby.

"To be there and stay there when they're weak and need you, there's nothing more to say than that," said Rychik.

Doctors call the special delivery unit a way to provide the patient with seamless care. Families like the Kellys call it nothing less than life-changing.

Studies are under way to see if keeping the mothers closer to the babies immediately after birth and during surgery results in a better outcome for the newborn.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia delivered more than 250 babies in the special delivery unit last year, their first full year in operation.