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Sanford Bemidji Medical Center: Birthing unit adopts Creative Arts Therapy

Maggie Newell holds her new baby, Hilma, who is seven hours old, in the healing garden at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center. Hilma was born a little more than an hour after Maggie and her husband, Wesley Newell, arrived at the hospital, so she didn't have time to try any of the Creative Arts Therapies. Hilma's older brother, Wesley, had already met his new sister Wednesday afternoon. Pioneer Photo/Molly Miron

The four main fears pregnant women - both first timers and experienced mothers - express are loss of control, pain, nausea and anxiety.

A new policy and set of strategies Sanford Bemidji Medical Center has adopted for the obstetrician and women's services units involve Creative Arts Therapy.

"It's just alternative methods other than medication," said Brenda Freborg, manager of the units. "Having a child does not have to be a medical procedure. Having a child should be an event you think positively about."

Freborg will describe the new strategies during a 1:15 p.m. presentation Saturday at the Pioneer's 2011 Women's Expo at the Sanford Center.

The Creative Arts Therapy Sanford Bemidji has so far adopted aroma therapy, music, massage and hydrotherapy.

"Women are a unique group; we have special needs," said Freborg. "But Creative Arts Therapy can apply to any patient in the whole hospital. The model we provide for the patient is holistic."

For example, in aroma therapy, lavender has a calming effect and peppermint suppresses nausea.

The music research has found the most calming therapy uses harps and woodwinds. Currently, Freborg said, the hospital uses DVDs, but Kari Knudson, Sanford volunteer coordinator, said she is recruiting musicians who would like to provide live music.

The massage technique Freborg described is counter pressure against labor pains.

"When you're talking about pain control in labor, it's about perception," she said.

Massage can bring relief and distraction from the pain with, or instead of, traditional medication. The renovations will feature a massage room separate from the patients' private rooms. Sanford has also written a grant for a special massage chair.

Hydrotherapy allows women in labor to sit in a bathtub and enhances relaxation.

"When you think about being in water, you're more weightless," Freborg said.

She said the hospital where she took her practicum actually practiced water birthing. The baby doesn't take a breath until he or she is lifted into the air. However, she said Sanford isn't prepared to offer water births as yet.

"I think what's really neat about it is this is going to be a team approach, so it's going to be driven by the nurses in the unit," Freborg said. "When you work OB, it's because you love to work with moms and babies."

Other innovations include a certified lactation specialists to help new mothers manage breast feeding and "mom-baby care" with babies housed in their mothers' rooms rather than spending most of their time in a nursery.