Skin-to-Skin Bonding

Nurses’ invention improves C-Section experiences

Three Virginia nurses have created a new way for mothers to bond with their newborns after Cesarean sections. Recognizing the value of immediate skin-to-skin contact, an experience often denied to new mothers in the operating room, the nurses invented a sterile drape that allows the baby to go straight from the OB to the mother, seconds after birth.

“We wanted to do what we could to create that intimate birth experience in the operating room,” said Kim Jarrelle, BS, RNC-OB, Director of Women’s Health at Johnston-Willis Hospital, Richmond, Va. Debbie Burbic, RN, director of labor and delivery at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital, Richmond added, “Mom should always be the first to hold her newborn. A C-Section should not be the difference.”

Entrepreneurial Leanings
They started their endeavor making paper models around Jarelle’s dining room table. It took several years to get it off the ground but they persevered.  Burbic said, “If three nurses could sit around and think about how they could make a difference, anyone can do it.” She continued, “This has been an adventure that none of us thought would ever come to reality.”

They began with their idea, and then researched to see if someone else had come up with a similar concept for a drape. No one in either the U.S. or Europe had, so they got started.  Along the way, they learned various aspects of being entrepreneurs, from working with manufacturers to securing patents. Jessamine O. Niccoli, RN, who has over thirty-five years of experience in the OR and currently works at Henrico Doctor’s Hospital admitted, “It’s been scary at times, but I would not change it. It’s been a great process.”

Upholding High Standards of Care
The main barrier to immediate skin-to-skin contact with a C-Section is maintaining the sterility of the operating field. With the nurses’ new drape, the operating field remains uncompromised. It is a two-part drape with a sealed hole. The first part is lowered onto the mother’s chest to extend the operating field. After birth, the seal is opened for mere seconds, just enough time to pass the baby through to the mother. The drape then seals up again so the surgeons can continue the operation.

You want to make sure you are providing good aseptic techniques,” remarked. At first the anesthesiologists were concerned over whether they’d still have continual access to the patient. After seeing the drape in action, they and the rest of the medical team came on board. Niccoli continued, “We can give that same standard of care to women regardless of how they deliver.”

Best for Baby and Mom
Skin-to-skin contact has multiple benefits for both mom and baby. Burbic noted, “It facilitates thermo-regulation of the baby’s temp being next to the mother.” The newborn’s heart rate and respiration stabilize and glucose regulates. Immediate skin-to-skin contact facilitates breast feeding. There is a higher success rate for initiation of breast feeding and a longer duration of breast feeding. “Most babies placed on mom’s chest will instinctively find mom’s breast and try to feed,” explained Burbic. With the CDC and the WHO rolling out new breast feeding guidelines, this helps.

Benefits aren’t limited to the newborn. Skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth lowers the mother’s anxiety levels and lessens nausea and pain. It stimulates the production of a critical hormone that helps stop bleeding. Mothers who experience immediate skin-to-skin show fewer signs of depression. Niccoli, said, “They have the beauty of seeing their baby come to them. It helps with psychological support and makes them an active participant in the birth.”

Advocating for Nurses
C-Section patients who did not use the drape would tell the nurses, “It’s surreal; I don’t even feel like I had a baby.” Especially with mothers who previously had a C-Section without skin-to-skin, the experience is overwhelming. The nurse inventors are advocates for these patients and have made their experiences in the operating room more patient-centered. Now, other hospitals seek them out to learn about their invention. They give presentations to educate their fellow nurses on how to use the drape. “We want this opportunity to be out there for everyone,” said Burbic

“It makes us proud that we are at the forefront of making positive change,” she added.  Niccoli encouraged more nurses to take action on their ideas. “All nurses are empowered by their ideas. They have the ability to make a change.”

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