MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. – Crystina Strelesky knew during her pregnancy that she was going to deliver a big baby.

What she didn’t know was just how big her daughter would be. Baby Natalee was born to Crystina and her husband, Mike Strelesky, at Franciscan Health Michigan City at 6:27 a.m. Nov. 9 weighing in at 10 pounds 10 ounces.

She is believed to be the largest baby born via vaginal birth at the hospital this year.

The medical team at the Franciscan Health Family Birth Center Michigan City was prepared with specialized training to help Crystina deliver her baby without the need for a Cesarean section, as was her wish. The hospital is striving to reduce the number of first time Cesarean sections whenever possible.

C-sections increased by 60% between 1996 and 2011, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The national C-section rate is 32.1% while Indiana’s is 31.5%. The World Health Organization advocates for an ideal Cesarean rate of 10% to 15%.

Avoiding a first C-section helps avoid subsequent C-sections, thereby driving the figures down over time. C-sections are also more costly for patients, so avoiding them except when medically necessary helps drive down medical expenses as well.

Franciscan Physician Network OB/GYN Valentin Drezaliu, MD, who delivered baby Natalee, said vaginal birth is best whenever medically possible.

“It allows for a quicker recovery for the mother and is beneficial for the newborn as well, with some studies saying their immune systems are better than those babies delivered with a Cesarean section,” Dr. Drezaliu said.

Kendra Bickel, RN, said baby Natalee was facing upward instead of downward when her mother went into labor. Nurses used a variety of positions to help baby Natalee turn in the right direction while easing Crystina’s discomfort.

“It made the mom so happy,” Bickel said. “She is empowered and feels good about herself. She was so proud and I was proud to be able to help her.”

Patty DeStefano, manager of the Franciscan Health Family Birth Center Michigan City, said avoiding a C-section for Crystina made a significant difference.

“Now we have a healthy mom who is going home with her healthy baby and not recovering from surgery,” DeStefano said.

Crystina said the entire medical team at the Franciscan Health Family Birth Center Michigan City was, “so helpful and supportive.”

She said she’d recommend the Franciscan Health Family Birth Center Michigan City to any expectant family, especially those knowing they are going to deliver big babies.

“If there are any mamas who think they can’t do it, you can,” she said. “Trust the Franciscan doctors and nurses. They know what they’re doing and they’ll help you every step of the way.”

More information about the Franciscan Health Family Birth Center Michigan City is available online or by calling (219) 877-1610.