Keeping mom and baby together

March 1, 2010 3:20:31 PM PST
One in every 33 babies is born with a birth defect. The most seriously affected babies often spend their crucial first hours or days separated from their mothers. New delivery units are designed to keep these high-risk babies and their mothers together while giving them a fighting chance. Maggie Kelly is a toddler in constant motion. You'd never suspect Maggie had to fight to live from the moment she was born. Mom Molly Kelly learned halfway through her pregnancy her baby had a serious birth defect.

"There's no way you can help your child except to love them," Molly said.

At 25 weeks, fetal heart specialists detected a defect that would restrict blood flow to the baby's lungs. Doctors told the Kellys their baby would need surgery right after delivery. Instead of transferring the baby to a specialized hospital, this unit at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is specifically designed for women carrying babies with known birth defects. Doctors pass the baby through a window to surgeons waiting next door.

"Had we not been able to jump in immediately, the outcome would not have been a good as it is," said Dr. Jack Rychik, director of the Fetal Heart Program at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

It's the first delivery room in the world where mom gives birth and stays near the baby. Precious time to bond, as a family.

"To be there and stay there when they're weak and need you...There's nothing more to say than that," Molly said.

Doctors call the special delivery unit a way to provide the patient with seamless care, from the womb to bassinette.

Families like the Kellys call it nothing less than life-changing.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia delivered more than 250 babies in the special delivery unit last year, the first full year in operation. Studies are underway to see if keeping the mothers closer to their babies immediately after birth and during surgery results in a better outcome for the newborn.