SMH Rolling Out New, More Natural Childbirth Options

SARASOTA– There’s nothing more natural than giving birth to a child. There’s also nothing quite as fraught with anxiety as that laborious journey from the womb to the world. Fetal distress, maternal bleeding and other complications during childbirth can turn even the lowest-risk pregnancy high risk … fast.

“Birth doesn’t always go according to ‘plan.’ That’s why having that security blanket — immediate access to high-tech care — is imperative,” said Sarasota Memorial Chief of Obstetrics & Gynecology Kyle Garner, MD, FACOG, acknowledged.

Still, closing that “natural” divide and ensuring expectant mothers have the best of both worlds – as natural a hospital delivery as possible – is this year’s top priority for Dr. Garner, who assumed the OB/GYN leadership position at the hospital in 2012, and Perinatologist Felice Baron, MD, FACOG, a high risk pregnancy specialist who directs Sarasota Memorial’s Maternal Fetal Medicine Department.

During the past year, the hospital began rolling out a number of new childbirth options for expectant mothers, including low intervention birth plans for women collaborating with their physicians for a more natural, un-medicated experience. Low intervention plans allow women to move about more easily, go for a walk, relax on birthing balls – free from the tethers of IVs, epidurals and fetal monitors.

And more is on the way. Soon they will have the option of laboring in a whirlpool tub to help ease the pain – one of the added features in the hospital’s new Courtyard Tower opening this fall. Three of the nine floors in the state-of-the-art tower have been designed for and completely dedicated to expectant moms and their babies.

“We understand women want as gentle and soothing a childbirth experience as possible, but they also don’t want to take any chances,” Dr. Baron said. “We are committed to providing as natural a delivery as we can – with little to no intervention – in the safety of a hospital setting.”

When it comes to delivering babies, Sarasota Memorial has easily earned its reputation as a heavyweight. The only hospital that offers obstetrical care in Sarasota County, and the only one in a four-county region with a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, it has long served as the region’s safety net for obstetrical and neonatal emergencies.

But less than 25 percent of the 3,000-plus births that occur at Sarasota Memorial each year require critical intervention, and the hospital has been working diligently to demonstrate its softer side and respond to a nationwide push for more “natural” births. In addition to offering more modern options for low- and moderate-risk births, the hospital is tightening up its policies on non-medically indicated inductions, reducing C-sections, offering alternative pain control methods and supporting VBACs, vaginal births after cesareans.

It also is expanding midwifery options. Certified nurse midwives have been delivering babies at the hospital for years (they welcomed 376 babies to the Sarasota community last year), but growing demand has the hospital setting its sights on a more comprehensive collaborative model to serve the community’s needs.

“The past couple of years have been a very enlightening experience for doctors and staff too – a rebirth if you will,” said Dr. Garner. “Literally, we are transforming the way we care for women to ensure each and every one experiences childbirth as naturally, safe and joyful as it can be.”


About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of inpatient, outpatient and extended care services, with more than 800,000 patient visits a year. Sarasota Memorial’s 806-bed acute care hospital has been recognized repeatedly as one of the nation’s largest, safest and best, with superior patient outcomes and a complete continuum of outpatient services– from urgent care clinics and physician groups, laboratory and diagnostic imaging centers, to home health and skilled nursing & rehabilitation. Sarasota Memorial is the only hospital in the Suncoast region (Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties) ever to rank in U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals” and HealthGrades “America’s 50 Best Hospitals” lists. Strategic partnerships with a number of academic medical institutions bring teaching, research and new treatments to our community. In addition to the BayCare alliance, some of our other affiliations include: All Children’s Hospital-Hopkins (pediatric care); Florida State University (medical students); USF Health (personalized medicine); and Moffitt Cancer Center (complex cancer care and clinical trials).