First, what is a birth center?
The American Association of Birth Centers defines a birth center as a home-like setting where care providers, usually midwives, provide family-centered care to healthy pregnant women.
The midwifery model of care
Birth is seen as a healthy, normal life event for most women and babies. Non interference is valued and mothers desires are respected.
Informed collaborative decision making
Mothers and midwives discuss the risks and benefits of tests and procedures and share all decision making in partnership.
Birth as a family centered experience
Focus on the family’s experience of birth is equally important as monitoring to insure their safety.
Low tech, high touch care
Midwives value and prioritize spending time listening to women, supporting them through every aspect of their care. In labor midwives offer comfort measures and encouragement rather than unnecessary medical interventions that often lead to more unwanted interventions.
Midwives and birth centers specialize in water birth, offering women the well known benefits of comfort and relaxation while giving birth.
Low C-section rates
All birth center and midwifery care studies show a significant reduction in the numbers of healthy low risk women ending up with C-sections.
Continuity of care
Each family has the same care team providing all their prenatal care. A relationship is formed allowing peace of mind for the mother and family. The midwives see the whole picture of each woman’s well being. During labor and birth the midwives, nurses and doulas stay with the mother until she is ready to go home. Follow up postpartum care is provided by the same team.
High client satisfaction
Women report a high satisfaction rate and indicate they would choose to give birth in a birth center with future pregnancies.
The medical model of care
Birth is seen as a risk laden medical event always requiring some intervention.
Pressure to accommodate medical staff
Hospital labor wards take care of numerous laboring women. The only way staff can monitor everything is to have everyone in bed being continuously monitored and observed from a nurses station.
Birth as a medical procedure
Every woman is given IV fluids, restricted from eating and epidurals are encouraged. These interventions are helpful just in case an emergency C-section is required, but all too often lead to escalating interventions that healthy women and babies do not benefit from.
High tech, low touch
Using technology to monitor everything is considered more valuable than human interaction. This often leaves women feeling unseen, unheard and not an important part of the process.
Hospital beds with stirrups
Putting women on their backs with their legs spread, at just the right height for the practitioner to be comfortable is great, but it’s counter to gravity and does not assist the mother in any way.
Higher C-section rates
Healthy low-risk women expecting a vaginal delivery are 4x more likely to end up with a C-section when delivering in the hospital. (https://www.consumerreports.org/c-section/your-biggest-c-section-risk-may-be-your-hospital/)
Unknown nurses working shifts, doctors attending the delivery only
It’s unlikely that the laboring mother will have ever met her nurses before, or that they’ll still be there when she delivers. OBs come in at the last minute, deliver the baby and leave.
Less patient satisfaction with medical care
Women often report feeling unsure if they needed all the medical interventions they received.
Evidence Confirms Birth Centers Provide Top-Notch Care, Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, APRN for the American Association of Birth Centers, January 31, 2013.
A landmark study published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, shows that birth centers provide first-rate care to healthy pregnant women in the U.S. The purpose of this article is to fill you in on what the The National Birth Center Study II found and what it means for moms and families.
National Surveys of Women’s Childbearing Experiences Conducted October – December 2012 and January – April 2013.
Listening to Mothers III (2012), a national survey of women who gave birth in U.S. hospitals in 2011-12 included topics of special relevance to the rapidly evolving health and maternity care environments. This report presents results of the follow-up survey done in 2013.