Brookwood’s new Women’s Medical Center offers state-of-the-art medicine and comforting amenities. Gone are the days when expectant mothers had no choice but to give birth in a sterile, uninspiring room not dissimilar to a laboratory. In December, Birmingham saw the opening of a women’s medical center that is not only state-of-the-art but also artistic.
The new 120,000-square-foot Brookwood Women’s Medical Center features 19 labor and delivery suites, 12 high-risk pregnancy suites, four operating suites for cesarean deliveries, 29 private neonatal intensive care (NICU) rooms, 42 private mother and baby suites, and two well baby nurseries.
In addition to offering the latest medical technology to care for a woman’s health, the new Women’s Medical Center features thoughtful design elements to care for her well-being. “What stands out in my mind is the beauty of the new facility,” says Sande Brewton, mother/baby unit clinical coordinator. “We’ve always provided some of the best nursing care—that [hasn’t changed]. What [has changed] is the surroundings. The new facility has hotel-like features … all focused on making the patient feel like she’s not in a hospital, but a really nice spa.”
The medical center took the nearby Cahaba River as its design inspiration. Local art, waterfall features, and ambient water sounds on each floor promote tranquility and decrease stress. Natural light streams in through floor-to-ceiling windows—even rooms in the NICU have windows, which, says Nathan Drake, Brookwood’s clinical coordinator of respiratory therapy within the NICU and equipment supply coordinator, is more than just an aesthetic choice. “Lighting —especially natural light—plays a big role in infant development,” he says.
These days, many families want all family members to be present and welcome at the birth of a child. That’s why comfortable family lounges were included in the design to provide the conveniences of home with features such as a stone fireplace, kitchen, and laundry station. Two playrooms offer younger family members their own retreat filled with toys and games. “The new family lounges and children’s playrooms at Brookwood support our family-centered maternity care philosophy,” says Amy Beard, vice president of women’s services at Brookwood. “Childbirth is a time of transition for moms and their families, and our goal at Brookwood is to make this transition easier. We feel that a family should have as much support as possible from our programs, staff, and facilities. Our educational programs and support services also prepare the family for active participation throughout
pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting. Two of our most popular classes for families are Boot Camp for New Dads and Big Brother/Big Sister.”
Of course, special attention has been paid to patient rooms. The 42 private mother and baby suites are
tastefully appointed and offer sweeping views of the city framed by plantation shutters, ample storage, a comfortable sleeper sofa, and a large bathroom with shower and bidet. Hotel-like amenities include room service, WiFi, and flat-screen TVs. The facility even offers private neonatal intensive care rooms that can accommodate multiples (twins, triplets, quadruplets) to allow family and babies to stay together.
But an excellent birthing experience is about more than just the surroundings—sophisticated technology and staff are crucial, especially for high-risk pregnancies. Brookwood’s new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a larger, more serene place for newborns to get well before going home, with an added emphasis on privacy. “In [the old] NICU, all babies [were] next to each other in one large room, only separated by curtains. The new facility provides private rooms for all NICU patients and their families,” says Drake. “It’s very different with regards to the aesthetics and structure. The privacy enables moms to breastfeed without leaving the space. It eliminates the distraction of what’s going on in the bed next to you. Doctors are able to talk to parents in private.”
“But one of the biggest benefits to the private rooms is noise reduction,” Drake continues. “Sound—or lack of sound—is very important in the NICU, because babies need a quiet environment to help them get better.” The new, private rooms provide an important sound barrier from the environment and other patients. Moreover, the new center is equipped with a state-of-the-art sound monitoring system in each room that illuminates and changes color if the noise level gets too high. “We wanted a visual alarm to help us provide the quietest environment for our babies,” Drake says. The NICU even features rubber flooring to absorb sound.
To maintain optimal nurse access to infants with the introduction of private , the new Women’s Center has equipped each nurse with a monitor that allows him or her to supervise the status of the patients. The system acts as both a phone and an alarm that will sound if, for example, a patient’s heart rate spikes.
The new Women’s Medical Center has also responded to the growing requests for natural births, offering services for all types of pregnancies. “The new Women’s Medical Center is all about comfort and choice for our moms. We’re here to support each mom’s birth plan,” says Beard. Staff trained extensively in assisting unmedicated delivery are available, along with birthing balls and birthing bars. The new facility also houses Birmingham’s only dedicated water birthing suite, which features special amenities designed to accommodate natural birthing plans. “More and more women are interested in having different options when it comes to natural and unmedicated delivery, and the new water birthing suite was a great way for us to meet the needs of these women,” says Beard. “The FDA-approved tub regulates water temperature, so it’s a great way to ease pain and allow mom to relax during labor. The water birthing suite features home-like décor and amenities that can help mom feel more comfortable during delivery. It’s also spacious, with plenty of room for family or other support such as a doula.”
For a medicated birth, the center has 24-hour anesthesiology staff exclusive to labor and delivery, as well as four operating rooms and private suites for Cesarean deliveries. No matter the type of birth a mother chooses, she’ll have a dedicated personal nurse throughout the entire process, and an additional nurse in delivery just for her baby.
The new Brookwood Women’s Medical Center simply continues a tradition of offering expectant mothers the most technologically advanced, welcoming environment possible. “By opening the first women’s hospital in Alabama [in 1988], Brookwood was a pioneer in women’s healthcare,” says Garry Gause, Brookwood president and chief executive officer. “With the introduction of the new Women’s Medical Center, we continue that tradition by offering progressive women’s healthcare services out of Alabama’s newest and most sophisticated maternity and neonatal facility.”