A woman comes through the double doors at the Athens-Limestone Hospital in the first stages of labor.

She is brought into a small, impersonal, institutional green room to labor on an uncomfortable emergency room cot.

Her husband waits outside the doors in the lobby because he’s had to work and was not able to take the childbirth classes required to be in the delivery room with his wife.

When she’s ready to deliver, the nurse calls the doctor and tells the woman to “hold on” until he arrives in the delivery room to which she will be moved.

There she sees a scary-looking bed or table with stirrup contraptions.

After delivery the baby is whisked away to the nursery and mom is taken back to her room in the regular part of the hospital.

This is the way things were done a decade ago at Athens-Limestone Hospital.

“When I came here they had a bad reputation,” said Dr. Thomas Pitman, MD, FACOG. Pitman has been with the hospital since 1994 and chief of OB/GYN since 1996.

He said that he used to see a lot of families travel to neighboring cities to receive more comfortable care.

However, now many Limestone County residents are overlooking the improved, up-to-date, obstetrics resources and pre-natal care that are available at the hospital here in Athens.

The birthing experience is now a lot more comfortable for mothers said, Regina Harrison, nurse manager over the mother/baby unit at Athens-Limestone Hospital.

“We have great doctors, three OB/GYN’s and we’re one of the only hospitals that have a certified nurse-midwife,” said Harrison.

The hospital has 10 LDRP—labor, delivery, recovery and postpartum—rooms.

These rooms have cherry cabinetry, a rocky chair, rooming-in bassinet, and recliner. They also include a DVD player, VCR and television.

Instruments, fetal monitor, delivery bed, warmer for baby, and everything the doctor and nurses need are in the room for delivery.

“Now looking back, the old bed and room looked more like a torture device,” said Roberta Ress, certified nurse-midwife.

The mother now has the option of anyone she wants to be in the room while she delivers and the baby can stay right in the room with the mother..

“Now mothers can room-in 24 hours a day,” said Ress. “She can keep the baby right there with her.”

More personal care is the united theme of the Athens-Limestone Hospital’s Mother/Baby Unit.

“In bigger hospitals patients are just numbers,” said Pitman. “People here have more personalized care.”

The staff at the Mother/Baby Unit said they have the resources and technology to make new mothers as comfortable as possible.

“When you’re having a baby you want to feel like you’re the only person in the world,” said Ress. “You want to be the only one that there is that they care about.”

In a small town there is a stronger connection between the patients and the staff.

Nurses and doctors often get to know their patients and the sister, the mother, and other family and friends, of the patient.

“There is this continuity of this patient through the whole cycle,” said Ress.

A lot of mothers return later just to say ‘Hi’ and show the staff how their child is doing, said Harrison.

“They bond with the nurses, especially because they have the same nurse the entire time,” said Harrison.

Procedures and technology

Obstetric procedures and technology have changed extensively over the last 10 to 20 years, as well.

“Back then they were taught to do episiotomies,” said Ress.

She said back 20 years ago episiotomies were done 100 percent of the time in vaginal deliveries, compared to only 3 percent of the time now.

She also points out that instead of forceps a vacuum extractor is now used.

A cesarean section room is located in the Mother/Baby unit floor so patients don’t have to leave the wing.

“Our c-section rates have decreased as the national rate has increased,” said Pitman

Pitman also has the only 4-D ultrasound machine in Athens located at his private office.

“You actually see the baby moving. There’s a lot more things you can see more clearly,” said Pitman.

The 4-D ultrasound machine help detect early signs of birth defects, he said.

Specialized up-to-date security measures are also in place at the Mother/Baby Unit.

They have HUGS security system where the baby wears a bracelet with a device that sets off an alarm if they are taken out of the unit. The nursery also has only one way in and one way out for extra security.

“It is a very secure unit,” said Harrison. She said there are other security measures in place that they do not reveal.


The Athens-Limestone Hospital Mother/Baby Unit also makes several resources available to new mothers and families.

The foremost educational tool that the hospital has for new parents is the LDRP room.

“Having the baby in the room is a great education opportunity to explain to them what we’re doing and how baby’s doing,” said Harrison.

The hospital has various classes available to the public including pre-natal childbirth classes, breast-feeding classes, and tours of the hospital for siblings. Discharge planning is also available to line up resources for new mothers after they leave the hospital.

Oliver E. Carlota, M.D., Delphia E. Marshall, M.D., Thomas C. Pitman, M.D., FACOG, and Roberta T. Ress, CNM, are all part of the doctors and delivery staff in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Their biographies, other staff members, an education calendar and the history of the hospital can be found on the Athens-Limestone Hospital website at www.athenslimestonehospital.com.

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