Are you seeking a natural birth experience, yet feel uncomfortable with the prospect of delivering your baby at home? Birthing centers can offer expecting women a return to a traditional, non-invasive way of giving birth while providing couples with an alternative that may best suit their needs and desires.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), 29 percent of live births in 2004 took place in a free-standing birthing center. Most birth centers found in the United States are independent facilities that offer women the best of home and hospital, affording the comforts of home with the systems and equipment in place to initiate emergency care, says Kate Bauer, executive director of the National Association of Childbearing Centers.
What You'll Find at a Birth Center
Expect to find warm, soothing colors and up-to-date emergency equipment, along with amenities that provide a more home-like atmosphere where women can labor, deliver, and recover.
At the Reading Birth and Women's Center in Reading, Pennsylvania, director Susan Stapleton, CNM, says that the major benefit of having a baby at a center comes down to the basic philosophy that views birth as a normal life event.
"The emphasis is on time in intensive care that includes extensive education, active participation in care, and decision-making by the woman herself. Personalized care in which the family and care providers get to know and trust each other, enhancing the woman's confidence in her own ability to give birth without a lot of intervention and in the ability of the new parents to parent as well," says Stapleton. This philosophy and program of care is the most important aspect of the birth center.
Unlike most hospitals, birth centers often offer laboring women the freedom of movement and less pressure to use other forms of intervention, such as enemas, episiotomies, and narcotics that offer pain relief.
"The benefits may include freedom of movement, freedom to make decisions regarding the birth of your baby, and the ability to eat and drink freely during labor. The women seeking to deliver at a birth center are usually very educated regarding the tools that are used during labor and are motivated to experience a natural birth," says Sue Turner, LM, at Ventura Birth Center in Ventura, California. The expectant mother is encouraged to assume positions that are more comfortable for her, both for labor and for birth. Having a continuous, trained support person in labor has also clearly decreased the need for pain medicine.