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When preterm labor or other emergencies arise during pregnancy, it is important that expectant mothers know the signs and seek help.

Bon Secours St. Francis Health System has established an OB emergency department staffed by hospitalists who are board-certified in obstetrics. They are on hand to treat patients should a problem develop.

“We have an OB emergency department and we handle specific emergencies that can arise during your pregnancy,” Ashley Albert, Bon Secours St. Francis Health System’s administrative director of women’s services, said.

OB hospitalists treat patients when they come to the hospital and they can then contact the patient’s regular obstetrician if the patient is admitted.

“A patient having a problem with her pregnancy, instead of going to an emergency room where she would have to wait a long time, they can be in and out much quicker and be seen,” Bon Secours St. Francis Health System Maternal-Fetal Specialist Phil Grieg said. “They don’t have to wait. Not having to go through a general emergency room, they go straight up the elevator and can be seen immediately.”

Albert said patients might come in for preterm labor, impending precipitous delivery, hemorrhage or bleeding or fetal distress.

Premature birth (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) is the largest contributor to the death of babies in the U.S. According to March of Dimes, babies who survive an early birth often face serious and lifelong health problems, including breathing problems, jaundice, vision loss, cerebral palsy and intellectual delays.

Sometimes expectant parents come to the hospital for reassurance – and that’s OK.

“Probably the majority are patients coming in to see if they are in labor or if they haven’t felt the baby move as much as before,” Grieg said.

In some cases, time is of the essence.

“Nurses and doctors are trained to respond quickly to emergencies and we practice that on a regular basis to coordinate all the resources to converge,” Grieg said. “Having this OB emergency room on Labor and Delivery completes the care. Patients are seen in the doctor’s office. Their records are available. There is complete continuity of care – there’s no gap. It is a safety net for the patient.”

Bon Secours St. Francis’ OB emergency response team was put together about 8 years ago.

“It was started to take care of patients with postpartum hemorrhage,” Grieg said. “We have a specific plan in place to treat that and that’s one of the things we train in. Having the hospitalists here makes that happen even faster.”

Albert said nurses are very experienced and technically skilled, but they, along with physicians and other staff have a faith-based mission as well.

“We have a chaplain that’s available,” she said. “You can have a blessing done for the baby, but it wouldn’t be unusual to see one of our nurses or physicians holding that patient’s hand and praying with them.”

The nation’s rate of preterm birth — the largest contributor to infant death in the United States – increased again in 2016, after nearly a decade of decline, earning the nation a “C” grade on the latest March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card released in November. The U.S. preterm birth rate went up from 9.6 percent of births in 2015 to 9.8 percent in 2016, according to final data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). Across the country, black women are 49 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women, and American Indian/Alaska Native women are 18 percent more likely to deliver preterm compared to white women. South Carolina received a grade of “D,” with a preterm birth rate of 11.2 percent. Both Greenville and Spartanburg received grades of “D,” with rates of 10.6 and 10.8 percent, respectively. Greenville’s rate worsened, while Spartanburg’s improved.

Learn the signs of preterm labor and whether or not you are at risk: https://www.marchofdimes.org/complications/preterm-labor-and-premature-birth-are-you-at-risk.aspx.

Source: March of Dimes, www.marchofdimes.org.

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