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A birth center is a home-like facility, existing within a healthcare system with a program of care designed in the wellness model of pregnancy and birth. Birth centers are guided by principles of prevention, sensitivity, safety, appropriate medical intervention, and cost effectiveness. Birth centers provide family-centered care for healthy women before, during and after normal pregnancy, labor and birth. – National Association of Childbearing Centers, 1995
A Birth Center Is a Safe and Satisfying Alternative
A research team in California compared women who planned to give birth attended by midwives in a freestanding birth center with similar women who were eligible for birth center births but chose to give birth in the hospital with doctors, instead. Women choosing hospital birth were twice as likely to have cesarean surgery and more than twice as likely to have forceps- or vacuum-assisted vaginal births. Women planning birth center births were much more likely to eat or drink, use a tub or shower and walk around during labor. They were much less likely to need medicine to speed up labor and also much less likely to have episiotomies (a surgical incision to make the vaginal opening larger when the baby is born).
The babies were born just as healthy in the birth center group compared with the hospital group.
Source: Jackson, D. J., Lang, J. M., Swartz, W. H., et al. (2003). Outcomes, safety, and resource utilization in a collaborative care birth center program compared with traditional physician-based perinatal care. American Journal of Public Health, 93(6), 999-1006.
A birth center offers gynecologic and maternity care in a safe and comfortable setting. Birth centers were designed for healthy, low-risk mothers and healthy babies. We involve the entire family in the pregnancy and birth. Children and partners are encouraged to come to prenatal visits and classes.
Families who choose a birth center are fully educated on pregnancy, labor and delivery, breastfeeding, nutrition, infant assessment, and postpartum care.
A birth center offers a relaxed atmosphere. A birth center feels like a home, with bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, fireplaces, and Jacuzzis. Women come to a birth center for prenatal care, so they are familiar with the facility and the staff.
A birth center offers privacy. One, or maybe two women will be in labor at the birth center at the same time.
Birth centers provide an alternative to childbirth in a hospital. Women are empowered and given control during their labor and delivery. They wear their own clothes, eat and drink during labor, and walk around. Women can bring as many support people as they like. The birthing mother labors in the shower or Jacuzzi, on birth balls, in a birthing rocker, on a birthing stool, or in any other position that is comfortable for her. The Nurse-Midwife is with her throughout labor. When it is time to give birth, the woman follows her body to get into the best position: hands and knees, squatting, sitting, lying on her side, or whatever feels right.
Birth centers promote breastfeeding. Babies are placed skin-to-skin with the mother immediately and nurse well within the first hour after birth. There is no separation of mother and baby—all of the infant’s care is done in front of the family.
Birth Centers do not perform routine interventions. Instead of routine IVs, we encourage women to drink. Instead of continuous electronic fetal monitoring that keeps a mother tied to a machine, we listen to the baby’s heartbeat with a handheld Doppler. We do not cut routine episiotomies; instead, we use warm compresses and oils to ease the passage of the baby.
We believe that women know how to give birth. By creating healthy pregnancies and minimizing interventions during labor, we focus on preventing complications.
If a problem develops, a birth center is part of the medical care system. If the mother or the baby develops a problem, seamless transition to appropriate medical care can me made. At The Birth Center, we are less than half a block away from a hospital and can have you there in minutes.
The quality of care in birth centers reported in “The National Birth Center Study” reflects the low overall intrapartum and neonatal mortality rate of 17,856 women registered for care in birth centers, of whom 11,814 were admitted in labor.
- No maternal mortality
- Neonatal mortality of 1.3/1000 births; 0.7/1000 if lethal anomalies are excluded.
- These rates are comparable to studies of low risk, in-hospital births
- Cesarean section rate for women receiving care in freestanding birth centers averages 4.4 percent, compared to the national hospital average of 26 percent
- 98.8 percent of women using the birth center would recommend it to friends and/or return to the center for a subsequent birth
For more information: American Association of Birth Centers