Ask the Expert: Meet the Laborist Team at IU Health West Hospital

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by IU Health.

IU Health laborist

Preparing to have a baby comes with a lot of steps. But the most important one is finding care and a team of experts that makes you feel right at home. The Maternity Center at Indiana University Health West Hospital, located in Avon, comes with a team of dedicated laborists whose main focus is round-the-clock care. We recently spoke with Dr. Michele Helbing about the laborist team at IU Health West, what their role is, and how their dedication to in-patient care benefits moms giving birth on the westside of Indianapolis.

What is the role of a laborist at IU Health West Hospital?

Dr. Helbing explained that a laborist is a highly-skilled OB/GYN that typically performs only in-patient care at the hospital. “Most of our team does 100% in-patient laborist duties in the hospital,” said Dr. Helbing. “Excluding one doctor on our team that has an outside practice, a majority of our doctors are focused solely on laborist work.”

The laborist team cares for pregnant patients who are admitted for medical or pregnancy concerns and for delivery and postpartum care. They do standard deliveries and c-sections as well as emergency deliveries and c-sections. The IU Health West Maternity Center has a Labor and Delivery emergency room, where each pregnant patient is evaluated by a laborist. Not all hospitals have an OB emergency room or OB triage space staffed by an OB/GYN. Also, if you are giving birth and your primary OB/GYN isn’t available for delivery or an emergency situation with you or your baby, the on-staff laborist is onsite to care for you. They are also available to support your doctor if a second set of hands is required.

What is the difference between a laborist and an OB/GYN with a practice outside of the hospital?

A laborist often does not have an outside practice so they are focused mainly on in-patient deliveries and postpartum care. Dr. Helbing emphasizes that laborists are “board-certified, experienced OB/GYNs, and have practiced the full scope of labor and delivery.” Most laborists have previously had office practices before deciding to become laborists. 

“We have chosen this route because we love delivering babies and practicing in-patient medicine. We are stationed in the hospital like an ER doctor would be when we work,” says Dr. Helbing. “Laborists are not stretched beyond those responsibilities, like covering the clinic or doing surgery. They are dedicated to the unit.”

How does the laborist work with my physician before/after giving birth?

The laborist team at IU Health West partners very closely with private OB/GYNs to have a coordinated care plan for each patient. With a unified responsibility for all patients that come to deliver, all OB/GYNs under the IU Health system are able to share the same medical records, and therefore are able to have continuity of care.

“We are a cohesive department with great working relationships. We speak frequently through our HIPAA protected communication system,” says Dr. Helbing. “We also sign out and communicate at the change of each shift for each patient.” Also, all OB/GYN physicians with an outside practice have offices on-site, so they are in close proximity.

When is the laborist team available at IU Health West Hospital?

The laborist team at IU Health West is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and 365 days a year. The laborist team provides this coverage by working in shifts around the clock. The hospital is always staffed with an in-house OB/GYN as well as a Riley pediatric hospitalist and an in-house anesthesiologist – not all labor and delivery centers offer these three services.

How many laborists are on staff?

In the Indianapolis Suburban Region, IU Health has a laborist program that covers IU Health West and IU Health North hospitals. There are seven full-time and three to four part-time laborists on staff. In the event that either hospital needs coverage, IU Health doctors who have outside practices can cover as laborists.

What can a patient expect?

All patients can expect optimal care, from the time of arrival at the OB emergency room to being discharged. The laborist team is always on-staff and available. Whether it is your primary OB/GYN or the laborist on duty, you can expect excellent and seamless care of your labor and delivery.

All of the doctors and nursing staff at IU Health West compassionately care for their patients. Dr. Helbing says the laborist team likes to consider all patients as their patients, regardless of when they first met them and started providing care.

Michele Helbing MD

About Dr. Michele Helbing, MD

Dr. Michele Helbing is a hospital-based obstetrics and gynecological laborist and medical director of the laborist program at IU Health West and IU Health North hospitals. She is responsible for providing high-quality in-patient care for obstetrical patients, performing all deliveries, and communicating with doctors and nursing staff at both hospitals. Dr. Helbing earned her medical degree from the Georgetown University School of Medicine and completed her residency at the Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, IL. Beyond work, Dr. Helbing is married and has three daughters who keep her busy! She loves spending time with family and friends, traveling to warm climates, and working on her yoga practice.

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IU Health laborist