Birth Centers - How Effective are Birthing Centers?
Birthing Center - According to Wikipedia
A birthing center, according to Wikipedia, is a healthcare facility, staffed by nurse-midwives, midwives, and/or obstetricians, for mothers in labor who may be assisted by doulas and coaches. By attending the laboring mother, the doulas can assist the midwives and make the birth easier. The midwives monitor the labor and well-being of the mother and fetus during birth. Should additional medical assistance be required, the mother can be transferred to a hospital. Some hospitals are now adding birth centers to their facilities as an alternative to the high tech maternity wards commonly found at most hospitals.
Something's Happening Here
There has been a major shift in the way babies are being born in the United States. During the 20th Century, medicine made quantum leaps and the advances in science and technology were dazzling, to say the least. Giving birth became an event that was to take place in a hospital, and the woman was less and less in charge of the way her baby would be born. Natural childbirth has gradually been replaced with cesarean deliveries as women gave more power to doctors to make the decision as to how they were going to birth their baby.
However, things are beginning to change again and more women today have made the decision to have their babies their way. Hospitals are recognizing this trend and now hospital birthing centers are beginning to be the norm in most American cities. A birth center has more of a home-like feeling to it than a hospital labor ward, with access to food, music, the ability to have friends and family present, and furnishings that look and feel more like home than a hospital room. Along with the move toward birthing centers, there is also a move toward home births as women are choosing to do things the old-fashioned way, having their babies in their own homes.
The Move Toward Home Birth
What has caused this radical change? It appears that in spite of the great good that has come as a result of scientific experiments and discoveries, medical science can't improve upon the design and function of the human body. When the body is functioning normally, it's an exquisite piece of machinery that knows exactly how to operate. Thankfully, when it isn't working well, we have all of those medical miracles to help us. The fact that conceiving and giving birth are normal functions of the female body, it stands to reason that home births are also considered normal. Barring any difficulties, having a baby is not a life-and-death situation - rather, it's a normal function. So, women who believe that are opting to have their babies at home.
Countries Supporting Midwifery
Although the United States probably has the most sophisticated and extensive (not to mention expensive) system of maternity care in the world, the neonatal mortality rate in 1989 was higher than in 20 other countries where there is less technology in the hospitals and labs. Countries like Holland, Denmark, and Sweden, as well as New Zealand, where fewer high-tech hospitals are available, use midwives as the primary care-givers during pregnancy and birth for women who are healthy. Most of the world's birth attendants are midwives, and the countries with the best rate of birth outcomes use midwives.
Sample Centers in the US
Within the US there are some excellent baby birth centers, places that have become synonymous with natural childbirth and the kind of environment that provides professional care without the trappings of a hospital room. Once such birthing center is The Overlake Birthing Center in Bellevue, Washington. Overlake has been working with women, supporting home-style births, for more than 40 years. They service all types of birth, including cesarean deliveries, and have a neonatal intensive care unit for serious problems.
Another such center, although a not-for-profit, is the Lisa Ross Birth and Women's Center in Knoxville, Tennessee. Lisa Dahin Ross was a nurse-practitioner and nurse-midwife who helped establish this freestanding birth center, the first of its kind in Tennessee. She was also instrumental in pushing for licensing and accreditation for birth centers in the US.
Both of these birth centers, along with many like them across the US, provide excellent care by trained professionals in a warm, welcoming environment where a woman can give birth in a very natural way. These centers provide follow-up and additional care for both mother and baby along the way as well as helping a new mother work through the challenges of nursing. Today, most birthing centers are covered by hospital insurance and are beginning to enter the mainstream of hospital labor and delivery care.