Dedicated mother and child units improve clinical outcomes
Posted on 25 February 2020
Mother and child units are preferred by mothers and clinicians. Why?
“Before, expecting moms would come in and experience their different kinds of treatment in different areas – neonatal was in one area, maternal care was in another. Now, it’s all in one. There is a flow.”
Thea Borckenhagen has been at Mediclinic Constantiaberg for over 28 years, and recently helped oversee the hospital’s changeover to a new, all-inclusive mother and child approach in her role as Nursing Services Manager.
Whereas maternal and neonatal care was often separate, it is now fully integrated. The multidisciplinary unit consists of obstetrics, neonatal critical care, paediatric, paediatric high care and critical care units. This was a major shift in mindset for the whole hospital, she says.
“This is a warm, family-focused environment. The staff members know each other well, and they’re empowered here to get to know their patients from the day they’re born, as they progress through the rest of the hospital. It is a continuous service.”
Units such as these are proven to promote good outcomes for both mom and baby by providing an individualised treatment programme, from a multidisciplinary team of experts and specialists.
According to a 2018 study in BJPsych Open, an open-access journal that presents the latest research in psychiatry and disciplines related to mental health, an integrated care environment improves maternal clinical outcomes and mother-infant interaction by improving maternal sensitivity and reducing maternal unresponsiveness and infant passivity.
It is important to note that the gynaecologists are the primary point of contact, and the primary caregiver, for each patient. “They are specialists and they are in charge of their patients’ treatment plan,” says Andrea Vinnecombe, Maternity and Labour Unit Manager: Mediclinic Constantiaberg. “So from an expecting mother’s perspective, she is in the care of her own gynaecologist.”
The unit encompasses the neonatal unit and the maternity unit, providing expecting moms with a support group of staff members, and giving gynaecologists a family of their own – a team of established experts capable of providing opinions and consultations in a timeous manner.
“Before, during and after delivery, all treatment options and requirements are facilitated in one space,” explains Vinnecombe. “It’s best to think of the unit as a collection of closely knit pockets of specialised expertise. From gynaecologists to intensive care and even paediatricians, wherever your pregnancy takes you, we are all here under one umbrella.”
Doctors in the unit draw on a long-term, trusting relationship, says Borckenhagen, which is crucial when noticing or treating conditions where early diagnosis and urgent intervention is key. “The doctors within the units may specialise in different things but they are all experts in their field – and they’re able to advise the other doctors, when needed, very quickly and efficiently.”
This has a lifelong effect. Mothers are empowered to build relationships with these experts and benefit from them for many years, as their children grow. “Many moms will come and have their babies with us, and we will see those kids again as they are admitted for a range of things – and they will know us, and know they have the back-up they need,” says Vinnecomble. “This helps moms and children to trust their doctors over the course of a lifetime.”