Leisure Cover Stories

Birth Team: SLUCare Physician Group

The term ‘midwife’ may call to mind images of labor and childbirth during a bygone era, but choosing the care of a modern-day midwife is actually a very progressive idea, health care professionals say. In St. Louis, SLUCare Physician Group offers a team of midwives highly trained to help expectant mothers have healthy and safe births in a technologically advanced hospital setting, says SLUCare midwife Maureen Foster, CNM, MSN.

Foster works with fellow certified nurse midwives Rebekah Hassler and Carolyn Mank, and all three are based at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital. Hassler, hired in 2013, was the first member of the midwife team; Foster came on board the following year, and they hired Mank in 2015. Each brings special expertise to patient care, including lactation consulting and natural childbirth techniques.

The program isn’t about delivering babies at home, Foster notes. Moms have hospital births as usual, but the midwives are their main coaches during the process. If there is a problem during labor or delivery, an obstetrician is brought in.

“We do a lot more than deliver babies,” Foster says of her partnership with Hassler and Mank. “We counsel women on things like family planning, prenatal care and breastfeeding, and we do well-woman checkups. They get all the care they’d receive in a regular clinic, but they also get extra education.” Foster says the team offers ‘pregnancy centering,’ a group program that brings together several moms-to-be each month for prenatal care, counseling and peer support. “We know that being well informed lowers stress levels,” she says. “When mothers have been through our program, they recognize earlier on if there’s a problem, so we can address it in time.”

Foster cites the case of a patient who came in because she hadn’t been noticing as much fetal movement as she should. It turned out that she needed to deliver right away, or the baby might have died. “The mother knew she needed to feel 10 movements in a two-hour period, but she was only feeling six,” Foster explains. “That’s a great example of knowledge saving a baby’s life.”

The midwife team generally handles low-risk pregnancies; moms with high-risk factors like age and health conditions are referred to obstetricians. Foster notes that most of the team’s patients choose the midwife program because they prefer more natural, ‘low-intervention’ births without some traditional procedures like episiotomies. “We don’t do surgery, so we can spend that time with our patients,” she says. The midwives enjoy collaborative relationships with SLUCare obstetricians, who are available to consult and provide help at any stage of the process. “Mothers often tell us this is the best childbirth experience they could have imagined,” Foster says. “They say, ‘I wasn’t afraid, because I knew everything that would happen.’”

Pictured: New mom Stephanie Nyhoff meets with midwife Maureen Foster.

SLUCare Physician Group’s midwife program offers complete, compassionate care for expectant mothers. On the cover: SLUCare midwives Rebekah Hassler, Maureen Foster and Carolyn Mank. For more information, call 314.977.7455 or visit slucare.edu/womenscare.

Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo courtesy of SLUCare Physician Group