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Terre Haute Hospital Unveils New Mother-Baby Unit

A room in Union Hospital's new mother-baby unit contains a hospital bed and a rocking chair.

A Terre Haute hospital unveiled Monday its newly-renovated mother-baby unit in response to increasing birth rates in the area.

Union Hospital spent $3 million over four months on the third floor of the hospital’s west building, creating the space and resources for 30 mother-baby couplets, which is double its prior capacity.

Nursing care manager Jennifer Harrah says the unit was necessary because more moms have needed hospital care in recent years.

“Our hospital over the last four years has consistently had an increase in our birth rate,” she says. “We were on a 15-bed post-partum unit. With the opening of our new labor and delivery and newborn intensive care last July, we saw an even more increase in our birth rate, and 15 beds just were not enough for our patients.”

The unit combines nursing care units for mothers and babies that were, prior to the opening, separated between a post-partum section for mothers and nursery care for newborns. Mother-baby couplets now stay and sleep together, an arrangement doctors say encourages bonding between the two and helps mothers breastfeed.

Indiana University nursing professor Desiree Hensel says the closer contact also helps new mothers adapt.

“It gives us a chance when mom is providing the majority of the care, if we have a mom that is uncertain of herself it manifests more readily,” she says. “And we have an opportunity to help that mom.”

Hensel says centers like Union Hospital’s reflect a directive from the World Health Organization to keep mothers and babies together for 23 hours a day immediately after birth.

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