Birth centers

A new study out last week provides evidence for the safety of midwifery care in birth centers. The abstract states:

This study demonstrates the safety of the midwifery-led birth center model of collaborative care as well as continued low obstetric intervention rates, similar to previous studies of birth center care. These findings are particularly remarkable in an era characterized by increases in obstetric intervention and cesarean birth nationwide

If reading scientific studies isn’t your cup of tea, you might prefer this consumer summary, which says

Expecting families who choose the birth center setting in the U.S. can expect high-quality, family-centered care with a Cesarean rate of approximately 6%.

The publication of this study has inspired midwifery advocates. At Childbirth Connection Amy Romano offers Five Reasons Birth Centers Have Met Their Moment. Citizens For Midwifery issued a call for consumers to support birth centers:

If you already have a birth center in your community:
  • Support it! Send them love today on Facebook, host a fundraiser, become their champion.
If your community does not have a birth center:
  • Read the article and the consumer summary and share them on social media.
  • Host a meeting to gather energy, information, and support.
  • Learn about birth center regulations in your state and what the potential barriers may be.
  • Send a copy of the article to local doctors and hospital administrators.

Birth centers operate on the midwifery model of care, and Pagans overwhelmingly want to birth with midwives. According to Kimberly Hedrick’s Pagan Health Survey, “The majority of Pagans would opt for natural childbirth attended by a midwife, with less than 20% saying they would find drugs acceptable for childbirth.”

So how will you use this new information about the quality of care offered by birth centers?

About Sarah Whedon

Sarah Whedon is founding editor of Pagan Families, the author of Birth on the Labyrinth Path: Sacred Embodiment in the Childbearing Year, and former Chair of the Department of Theology and Religious History at Cherry Hill Seminary. Sarah’s teaching, research, and advocacy work center around topics of spirituality, feminism, and reproduction. She makes her home in the Boston area with her partner and their children.

  • Cortney

    I am pagan and work at a birth center; witnessing the beautiful ritual the surrounds a family and a community during birth is so powerful. A Birth Center provides a freedom that not many will find in a hospital. Thank you for informing Pagans that they have better options for celebrating their transition from maiden to mother. Blessed Be

    • Sarah Whedon

      Thank you for doing this work Cortney. You might be interested in our Birth Guardians series.

  • Bianca Bradley

    While I’m happy that Birth centers work for many women, I fail to see what this has to do with Paganism. Paganism as an umbrella term for the many religions, has no requirement that women who are pregnant use these.

    Also for women like me, birth centers aren’t a good idea. 1st birth, my daughter kicked my bag of water a month early, they put me on pitocin and induced labor. Second pregnancy, kid ran two weeks late, they induced me with some blue pig jelly, and oh hey I had shoulder dystochia which wasn’t put on my medical file.

    Third pregnancy, using Yankee docs and midwifes. They were not pleased to here the Washingtonian docs had induced me with the pig jelly, because you can’t stop labor once it starts, pitocin is safer, but may be linked to autism not sure. I was offered an emergency C-Section, when my husband was describing my second childs labor. Shoulder Dystochia was not listed on my medical record and it should have been. THank the Gods I listened to my instinct and went with it. Because my sons shoulders were big, his head while down, wasn’t hitting the cervix and he was facing the wrong direction. The other joy, cord was wrapped around his neck. A C-section was a better deal to do.

    So while birth centers are great, they should be weighed with the mothers and family history, and people should be informed that other alternative and better measures are in place.

    It is not unpagan, to decide to use an OBGYN and use better medical practice over a nurse midwife. It is not unpagan, to use drugs, when your in labor.

    • Sarah Whedon

      I completely agree that obstetricians and medication can be the best choices for a Pagan. I actually think that Pagans who value diversity and personal autonomy should support a birthing person in choosing the birth that is best for her, in whatever setting that might be.

  • Heather

    I had a very spiritually centered pregnancy and birth. My daughter was conceived in ritual and was born on Lughnasadh at a birth center. I was left alone when I needed to be with my husband and doula, laboring in the tub. My midwife was there when I needed her, and that was that. I wanted as few interventions as possible and my wishes were honored. I believe medicine is great when you need it, but I didn’t. The rest of my care was through my chiropractor and reiki practitioners. My daughter is happy and healthy, perfect in every way.

    • Sarah Whedon

      Thanks for sharing your story Heather. I’m glad to hear you had such a good experience.

  • beka

    i am so glad that birth centers are getting the attention they deserve as a real alternative. I get a bit bent out of shape at the word safe, though. i was one of the .47/1000 at 34 weeks.

    i wanted as few interventions as possible and a handful of days after a checkup i ended up being diagnosed with IUFD, was induced, and got an epidural. Wanting ain’t getting. I am now a leper in the natural birth community. No one wants to hear about it. Especially those I tried to convince during my pregnancy that midwife care was as safe, if not safer, that medical care.

    People i know have “politely” informed me that i got what i deserved for going an alternative route by suggesting maybe next time i should see a real doctor during my next pregnancy. i dont think i even have a choice because the birth centers are so careful about who they will treat…and having one stillbirth means, statistically, you are at risk for another.

    All this to say…i am tired of hearing about good outcomes some days because I feel like all of Ina May’s acolytes lulled me into some false place where everything would be ok if i trusted my body. Because i did and i got my heart broken anyway. Nothing can ever prepare you for something like that but i could have done with a dose of reality beforehand.

    You may do everything perfectly right and still not come home with your baby.

    • Sarah Whedon

      I’m horrified that anybody told you that you got what you deserved. Nobody deserves suffering like that.

      • beka

        Honestly… “God has a plan!” is much more tough a pill to swallow.

        • Sarah Whedon

          “God has a plan” is rarely the right thing to say even to someone whose theology might agree with that!

          I’m sorry for your pain and that you’ve encountered so much insensitivity.