Hospital, midwife offer new option for mothers
By KALEY CONNER
PLAINVILLE -- Jenna Sander had a specific goal in mind when she chose to pursue a career in nursing.
"I always knew I wanted to be a midwife," she said.
After earning a bachelor's degree from Fort Hays State University, she went on to pursue a master's degree in nurse midwifery from the University of Kansas.
She now is employed as a nurse midwife at Rooks County Health Center and is the only midwife with hospital privileges in northwest Kansas.
Her goal is to give women more options and help mothers achieve the labor and delivery experience they want. As a midwife, she is trained to help women experience a natural childbirth by using alternative pain relief techniques, such as massage, essential oils or music. Water births also are available at the hospital, located in Plainville.
She also works closely with family physicians in the hospital setting, and medical intervention is readily available if it becomes necessary.
"We have amazing tools we can use," Sander said. "We can save women. We can do C-sections if we have to. ... That's a miracle, but knowing when to use those tools is key."
Data during the past few years suggests the number of medically unnecessary C-sections is on the rise, which comes with a hefty price.
A World Health Organization report from 2010 found more than 30 percent of women in the U.S. delivered their babies via C-section in 2008.
Approximately 673,000 procedures were deemed "unnecessary" by the report, costing an estimated $687 million. According to WHO standards, annual C-section rates above 15 percent indicate overuse.
While Sander said she does not hesitate to seek intervention for the mother and child if it becomes necessary, she first seeks to help the mother achieve the outcomes she desired in her birth plan.
Other midwives deliver babies at home, but Sander is the only one in the area delivering babies at hospitals.
There are two birthing suites at Rooks County Health Center.
"In my opinion, it doesn't matter if you're in a birth center or a hospital. Women should have the birth they want, and it doesn't matter where it happens," Sander said.
"What matters is that women have skilled people caring for them and creating an enjoyable, memorable and safe birth.
"Birth is not an experience you should look back on and cry," Sander said, her voice thickening with emotion.
"Women shouldn't have negative feelings or guilt after birth. Women should feel positive and empowered."
Sander, as a nurse practitioner specializing in midwifery, can see women of any age for routine gynecological care.
She works with women throughout the pregnancy, and can help them prepare for labor and create their own birth plan. She also can provide breast-feeding support and care for the infant for the first 28 days of life.
She chose this career path because she wanted to improve options for women after the birth of her first child, she said.
"I did not have a great birth experience with my first child, and that's really what inspired me to change the way that women are cared for," she said. "In terms of health care for women, there's a lot to improve on as a nation."
Heidi Zizz, who lives by Webster Lake, has delivered three of her four babies at Rooks County Health Center.
Her youngest, Cambria, was born May 2 and actually was the first water birth at the hospital, she said.
She also had the opportunity to work with Sander for the first time.
"I had always kind of wanted a midwife through all four of my pregnancies and deliveries, but it's just not something that's easily found out here," she said.
"I was very excited at the opportunity to be able to have Jenna as a part of our team for Cambria's birth."
She also was excited to experience her first water birth. She had wanted to try the technique before, but other circumstances prevented that type of delivery.
"It helped with pain relief and it made the birth environment for Cambria so calm," she said, noting she understands natural childbirth is not for everyone.
But it's nice, she said, to have new options available in northwest Kansas.
"The staff is very open-minded to whatever it is you have in mind for your birth experience, so having that resource in the middle of western Kansas is just wonderful."