When the Neugarten Family Birth Center at Northern Dutchess Hospital opened in 1985, it was the first hospital-affiliated birth center in the state. Today, Neugarten is one of the most popular birth centers in the Hudson Valley — it has been 5-star rated for maternity care by HealthGrades four years in a row.
In the early 60s when he began to practice obstetrics, founder Dr. George Verrilli recalls his discomfort with what was considered the “art of delivery” at the time. “Knock the woman out with ether, give her a big episiotomy and deliver the baby with forceps — she woke up 40 minutes later not knowing she’d delivered, whether she had a boy or a girl.” Dr. Verrilli decided to open his own practice, where he offered childbirth classes to prepare expectant families “much like you’d prepare an athlete for the Olympics.” He delivered his patient’s babies at Northern Dutchess Hospital.
A family affair
Thanks to the open-mindedness of the board at Northern Dutchess, Dr. Verrilli established a family-oriented birthing environment within the hospital. No one was required to wear masks or hospital gowns. Women could walk the halls or stand in the shower during labor. Nurse midwives were brought onto the staff. Babies stayed in a private room with the parents at all times, and sleeping accommodations were eventually made for fathers.
Despite having such unorthodox practices for the time, Northern Dutchess’ annual births quickly rose from around 200 to almost 400 by 1975. When the state required that small hospital maternity centers (fewer than 1,500 births annually) merge into larger regional centers, the NDH Mother’s Club gathered 5,000 petition signatures to keep obstetric services at the hospital, and by 1979 the state agreed. Five years later a generous donation from Dr. Ludwig Neugarten allowed Dr. Verrilli to expand the birth center into its own space. On July 1, 1985 he delivered the first Neugarten Family Birth Center baby.
Today almost 800 babies are delivered at Neugarten annually, and the center maintains its reputation as a progressive birth facility. “We give patients options, we allow them to really be part of the team in making decisions regarding their healthcare,” says Pam Rhodes, Northern Dutchess’ Director of Women’s Services. ” The Neugarten Family Birth Center’s 25th Anniversary celebration is September 15, 2010.
Learn more about home births and midwives here.