Happy Birth Day: What is it like to deliver at a birth center?
Exciting things are happening in Bloomington IL, with the first freestanding birth center to open outside of Chicago, women in Central IL now have another option to deliver outside of the hospital! So what exactly is a birth center and what does it look like to have your baby there? In my second Happy Birth Day post (celebrating local resources for pregnant women in Central IL) I answer some common questions and share photos from the first delivery at The Birth Center of Bloomington Normal!
What is a birth center?
The American Association of Birth Centers describes birth centers as a place to receive comprehensive prenatal care, labor support and postpartum support. Prenatal classes promote health from the beginning of your care and cover diet and exercise, discharge readiness, breast feeding, centering pregnancy and more! Clients receive complete prenatal care from Certified-Nurse Midwives to encourage a low-risk pregnancy, assess risk factors, discuss your wants and needs for labor/delivery and includes all necessary testing to ensure a healthy delivery.
The Bloomington-Normal Birth Center has three labor and delivery suites each with a large tub and walk-in shower. The waiting area is a cozy living room with a fireplace, large couches, tv complete with Netflix and movies and play area for big kids. There is also a full kitchen and dining area for families to cook whatever they would like during their stay.
How does care with a Midwife differ from an OB-GYN?
All care at the Birth Center is led by a team of Certified Nurse Midwives. Midwifery care provides a holistic approach to pregnancy, birth, and women's health care with a focus on the promotion of health and the development of individual responsibility. The midwives will take the time to listen to you and answer your questions, stay with you throughout your labor and birth, and help your family get off to the best possible start with your new baby. This hands on approach reduces the need for intervention and respects birth as a natural process.
What techniques or tools are used to manage labor at the Birth Center?
The midwives at the birth center are committed and experienced in supporting a laboring woman. A wide variety of non-pharmaceutical methods are offered to encourage labor progress and enhance a mother’s ability to relax and find comfort. This low-intervention approach is one of the things that enable birth centers to deliver such great outcomes to their families including much lower c-section rates. Evidence shows that unnecessary interventions (such as epidurals, continuous fetal monitoring, and the restriction of the mother’s movements) increase risks and c-section rates. During labor, client's utilize:
- physical and emotional support from trusted birth companions
- aromatherapy and other homeopathic pain-relief methods
- showers and birthing tubs of warm water to block pain receptors and are encourage deep relaxation
- massage and counter-pressure
- one-on-one care from their midwife and her assistant
- the ability to move around, walk, and get into any position that feels comfortable
- birth balls and peanut balls
- birth stools
- a private and peaceful environment
- professional labor support is also encouraged (such as hiring a birth doula)
- and more!
Is it safe to deliver at a Birth Center?
The Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health released a study in 2013 with evidence of the top-notch care provided by birth centers in America. According to the study, 9 out of 10 women who planned to deliver at a birth center achieved a vaginal delivery and less than 1% of women transferred to the hospital for emergent reasons (around 11% of women transferred during labor for non-emergent reasons such as prolonged labor). Rebecca Dekker of Evidence Based Birth explains: "In other words, the C-section rate for low-risk women who chose to give birth at a birth center was only 6%—compared to the U.S. C-section rate of 27% for low-risk women. This means that the C-section rate for women in birth centers is more than 4 times lower than what is seen among low-risk women in the U.S." You can read her explanation of the entire study here.
How long is a postpartum stay at the birth center?
Most families are ready to head back to the comforts of their own home 6-8 hours after delivery! But your care doesn't stop there. The midwives are available to you by phone and will call to check in on you 12-24 hours after birth. Then, they come to your house 24 hours afterwards for a postpartum assessment and again 72 hours after. An appointment at the birth center is scheduled for 2 weeks postpartum and again at 6 weeks.