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Care close to home makes all the difference for new parents

By The Health News Team | July 9, 2024
Edith Del Rio and Omar Valdez of San Diego at Sharp Chula Vista Center for Women & Newborns

Edith Del Rio and Omar Valdez with their daughter, Ehlani, at Sharp Chula Vista's Center for Women & Newborns.

Edith Del Rio and Omar Valdez say their prayers were answered when they found out they were expecting a baby girl. They had experienced a miscarriage the year before and prayed Edith would get pregnant again soon.

“We were so happy,” Edith says. “The day we found out she was a girl, I bought her first outfit. It felt like a dream come true.”

Edith’s pregnancy had been going along smoothly. She knew about preeclampsia because she had seen people talk about it on TikTok and Instagram, but her blood pressure wasn’t high, so she didn’t think it was something she needed to worry about. Then, almost as soon as she entered the third trimester, things changed. Edith’s blood pressure was high during one of her checkups and stayed high throughout the rest of her pregnancy. Her doctor, Dr. Ray Kamali, an OBGYN affiliated with Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, and hospital staff monitored Edith closely to ensure she and her baby remained safe.

“As a first-time mom, I was so nervous,” Edith says. “I was told I would need to be induced at 36 or 37 weeks, but they ended up having to induce me at 35 weeks because my blood pressure was so high.”

Baby Ehlani was born at 5 pounds to an overjoyed Edith and Omar. Ehlani’s blood sugar levels were low, a condition known as neonatal hypoglycemia that is common among babies born prematurely, so she was brought to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Sharp Chula Vista, where she stayed for nearly three weeks. Edith and Omar were grateful to live nearby so they could visit frequently.

“I don’t drive on the freeway, so it meant the world to me to have quality care for my baby and me close to home,” Edith says. “I can’t imagine how hard it would have been with traffic and the distance if she had to be at a hospital farther away. With Sharp Chula Vista just 10 minutes from our home, I was able to visit my baby twice a day, bring her milk and feed her myself.”

A 2023 report published by the March of Dimes found that the farther a woman has to travel to receive maternity care, the greater the risk of maternal morbidity and adverse infant outcomes, such as stillbirth and NICU admission. Longer travel distances to care can also cause financial strain and increase prenatal stress and anxiety. The distance a woman must travel to access care becomes a critical factor during pregnancy, at the time of birth and in the case of emergencies.

According to Dr. Kamali, prenatal care involves regular appointments to monitor the health of mom and baby. While uncommon, he says, emergencies can occur during pregnancy or labor, and it is always safer to be closer to a health care facility to receive prompt attention. Proximity to a hospital with labor and delivery services also means that the patient’s support network can visit and help during the childbirth and postpartum periods.

Edith was amazed by all the support she received. At the hospital, lactation consultants coached and cheered for Edith as she got the hang of breastfeeding, and NICU nurses provided frequent updates about the care they were providing to Ehlani.

“We developed relationships with the NICU nurses,” Edith says. “Even the social worker cared about us and helped me process my maternity leave paperwork. An occupational therapist worked with us, too, and helped find the right bottle for feeding Ehlani.”

“I’m extremely thankful to have a NICU in the South San Diego area,” Omar adds. “We didn’t expect to have a baby prematurely, but we are incredibly grateful that our firstborn, Ehlani, was born at Sharp Chula Vista, close to our home. It isn’t a coincidence that the nurses were prepared and ready to receive us. The emotional support and strength the nurses gave us were fantastic — they are true professionals. We cannot thank them enough.”

Learn more about pregnancy and childbirth; get the latest health and wellness news, trends and patient stories from Sharp Health News; and subscribe to our weekly newsletter by clicking the “Sign up” link below.

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