- October 27, 2022
Chrissy Coney remembers her seventh-grade anatomy class in Sandy Hook, Conn., when she first discovered her passion.
She went home after one particular class and proclaimed to her mom, "I want to deliver babies."
She was hooked.
So after her education (she earned her nursing degree from the University of South Florida in 2008) and 11 years as a surgical nurse, 8 1/2 of those in delivery, she didn't think her job could get any better.
Coney, 36, has been appointed the Lakewood Ranch Medical Center's first "Birth Designer."
The new program at the hospital's Women and Children’s Center has been born to help expectant mothers facilitate their birth plan.
"At the beginning of this year, one of our new nurses mentioned this program was run at the hospital she left," Coney said. "I mentioned it to our director, who thought it was a good idea. She researched it."
By April, the program was added and Coney had the job of the first birth designer. Her passion moved her to the top of the list, along with her knowledge of all the physicians, nurses and staff.
"I like all of it," she said of working with expectant moms. "I like connecting with the moms and their families. I love the miracle of birth. It never gets old."
Coney, who lives in Lakewood Ranch, said the new program is like a concierge approach to childbirth. Expectant moms who are passing their 28th week of pregnancy and who plan to give birth at Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, can meet one-on-one with Coney, who helps them design their birth plan.
Along with hiring Coney to the position, the hospital has added amenities to its program to make expectant mothers more comfortable.
Coney did much internet research before taking over her new position and she also visited the Florida Hospital Tampa, which has a position similar to a birth designer.
"Our program is more about the educational process," Coney said. "We do have women bring in their own birth plans."
Those women often are not aware of amenities offered by the hospital at no cost, such as flavored waters (cucumber lemon or mint for example) in their rooms. They might not know the hospital offers clear drapes if they have a Cesarean section and they want to watch the actual birth.
Coney helps them put together a playlist of music they can enjoy during childbirth. Although many of the mothers have their own favorites, Coney will offer suggestions, such as "Push It" by Salt-N-Pepa.
"The playlist can offer motivation for pushing," she said. "Ultimately, they will put together their own playlist, but people don't think about things like that."
The expectant moms can choose aromatherapy or essential oils that can ease pain and muscular discomfort. It can be used by their partners for a massage.
"It's not an overpowering scent," Coney said. "But it can ease nausea and it is calming and soothing."
The program includes several free classes. Hypnobabies teaches a type of hypnosis during labor, helping women in natural childbirth. It allows the expectant mothers to control their breathing.
Nurturing Touch offers an instructor who teaches moms to perform soothing strokes on the baby by using a doll.
The hospital is looking to add other classes as well.
"Prenatal classes will be a big part of this new program," Coney said.
Other changes already have been put into place. Mothers can choose mobility epidurals which allows them to keep feeling in their legs while offering excellent pain relief. Nitrous oxide is now offered as well. Birthing balls are available that often give the expectant mother comfort. Expectant moms can choose an "upright birth" using a birthing chair.
The rooms have been painted and new furniture has been added, such as designer couches that fold down into beds for the dads and gliders for the moms.
"We are continually trying to make things better," Coney said. "There is a lot of room for growth."
Lakewood Ranch Medical Center delivers approximately 50 to 60 babies a month and with the new program, Coney expects that to increase.
She held the first Birth Designer Preview Night earlier in June and 20 women attended. The preview night will be held every second Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. and another date might be added, if needed.
"Patients want compassionate care, a safe environment and an excellent experience," Coney said. "We are a smaller unit, but we offer more one-on-one service ... one nurse to one patient. We love our patients and we want to keep them coming back. We want their friends to come here and we want to provide the care everyone deserves."
And if needed, Coney might still be involved as a nurse at childbirth.
"If they need help on the unit, I will be out there helping them," she said.