Why a Birth Center?

Moms have choices as to where and how they want to birth their babies. Gone are the days when everyone went to the hospital– and before that when everyone had to birth at home. When I was considering where to birth, my first thought was to stay home. There would be no rush to another birthing place, we would remain in our own comfortable environment, baby’s first moments would be spent surrounded by the things that will become part of his or her life, and I would be in complete control of my movements and choices during labor.

However, as this is my first child I do not know what to expect during labor. My husband is supportive of home birth, but I think choosing to remain home for our first birth would have caused him and our family great anxiety. The most common birthing place, though, the hospital, was out of consideration from the beginning. While some hospitals are better than others, in all of them the birth process is subject to hospital routine and protocol. A routine IV is pretty much universal practice, fetal monitoring that requires the mom to lay on her back is most often required, and moms are usually restricted to the flat on the back/knees pushed up to chest position for pushing. This position is the easiest for the doctor who is catching the baby, but it does not allow the mother’s pelvis to open to full capacity, resulting in more difficultly for the baby in coming through the pelvis. This leads to greater likelihood of tearing or episiotomy, longer pushing, and greater chance of surgical intervention. When I learned that mothers birthing in hospitals must submit unquestioningly to one-size-fits-all policies I knew I did not want to go that route. Not every birth follows the same pattern. Why try to make everything the same for the convenience of the medical staff?

There is another, less well known option. Birthing centers provide the security of knowing that medical help is available if needed, but trust the ability of the woman’s body to birth a baby. Birth is not treated as a medical emergency unless a complication really does occur, whereupon it is treated. When birth happens in the way it is supposed to happen– when the woman’s body is allowed to do what it is designed to do in birth and trusted to be able to allow the baby to pass from the womb– there are no arbitrary restrictions on what a mom can do and how she must birth. Midwives encourage the mother to adopt the positions during labor that will best help baby proceed down the birth canal and provide maximum space for baby to pass through the pelvis. The mother is encouraged to drink to stay hydrated, and to eat if she feels so inclined. The injunction against food and drink during labor in hospitals is a precautionary measure in case general anesthesia is required. Since general anesthesia is a very rare measure during birth, birthing centers take the approach that it is better for mom to keep hydrated and strong while performing a very strenuous task than to be restricted to ice chips for fear of needing anesthesia. Birthing centers also allow new mothers to go home sooner than hospitals. If mom and baby are healthy and mom wants to go home a few hours after birth there is nothing stopping her. I’d much rather bond with my baby and recover in my own home.

I think birthing centers will grow steadily in popularity. As more and more women choose birthing centers and come away with stories of safe, calm births they will become more socially acceptable. The birth center that I am using is freestanding (not associated with a hospital), but is just across the street from the hospital. In the fourteen years it has been operating there have been two emergency transfers, both of which resulted in healthy moms and babies. More women than that have chosen to transfer to the hospital for pain medication. (There are no epidurals offered at the birth center.) I like those numbers– you can transfer if you want, but only two women in fourteen years have actually had a medical reason to transfer. That reiterates for me that birth is usually a safe, non-emergency process.

It is true that many women did previously die during childbirth. My own great-grandmother died giving birth at home in 1919. The difference now is that moms are transferred right away when complications arise, and there are more medical interventions available when they are truly needed. We can also stop postpartum hemorrhage, which was a major factor in maternal death. All in all, women have more options in birth now than ever. I am so thankful that we are not all locked in to the same routine procedures! I will write about my experience at the birth center after my baby is born. Anyone who would like to share their birth story, wherever you chose to birth, is welcome to do so via comments.


Your Baby is Too Big

I just want to feature a link to a blog post written by a doula about the fear tactic of a baby being “too big” that is used to get women to agree to induced labor and planned cesareans. This this post is worth your time!

The Big Baby Myth