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Birthing centers provide alternative for expecting moms

Shaina French, MSN, is a certified nurse midwife with Anne Arundel Medical Group Bay Area Midwifery, a freestanding birth center located on the main hospital campus of Anne Arundel Medical Center.
Shaina French, MSN, is a certified nurse midwife with Anne Arundel Medical Group Bay Area Midwifery, a freestanding birth center located on the main hospital campus of Anne Arundel Medical Center. (Courtesy of Anne Arundel Medical Group Bay Area Midwifery)

For expectant moms who don't want to deliver their babies in a hospital, birthing center are another option. Shaina French, is a certified nurse midwife with Anne Arundel Medical Group Bay Area Midwifery, a freestanding birth center located on the main hospital campus of Anne Arundel Medical Center, gives an overview of what moms can expect from a birthing center.

What is a birthing center?

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A birth center is like a home-away-from-home, with an extra safety net. Birth centers are staffed by midwives and nurses, and are equipped with amenities you would find at home like queen-size beds, jetted tubs, aromatherapy and lights on dimmer switches. Yet, you have all the safety equipment and medications for emergencies.

More than 66,000 children under three years old end up in the emergency room each year after suffering injuries from accidents in the nursery, according to a long-running study in the journal Pediatrics

What kind of services do birthing centers provide?

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A birth center delivery is available for women with low-risk pregnancies who want to deliver without pain medication and want a short recovery time before returning home. In the home-like setting of a birth center, you can request natural remedies to make the birthing process more comfortable, such as the use of birthing balls (exercise-like balls used to help with labor) and birthing pools (for water births), breathing techniques as well as massage and music therapy.

A handful of hospitals are trying to change the culture of the neonatal intensive care unit and in turn reduce costs and improve the time it takes babies to recover by keeping mom and baby in the same room during recovery

What is a water birth and how is that beneficial for pregnancy?

Both labor and delivery can take place in a birthing pool filled with warm water. Some women may choose to labor in a birthing pool and, then, deliver in bed. Laboring in the water helps relieve pressure and pain. It also helps with relaxation. For baby, a water birth provides a gentle transition into the world.

How is delivering in a birthing center different from a hospital?

As birth centers rise in popularity, studies continue to show they provide a safe alternative to hospitals for women with low-risk pregnancies. Laboring women are able to eat, drink, move around and be free of IVs during labor. They are also free to deliver in a position of their choice, including water birth. After delivering in a birth center, families typically go home three to four hours following a normal birth. Because families go home within a few hours, there are extra follow-up visits necessary in the first few days with a midwife and pediatrician.

Time flies not only when you're having fun, apparently, as the saying goes, but also when you're birthing babies, too.

Are birthing centers set up for medical emergencies that sometimes arise during delivery?

Birth centers are equipped with the same emergency medications and equipment found at a hospital. Mom and baby are monitored round the clock and, if an emergency arises, birth centers have protocols on when to transfer to a hospital and how. At the hospital, consulting doctors are on duty 24/7. Midwives also have physicians they consult with when complications arise while a patient is in their care during pregnancy or labor.

Is it possible for a woman to get care in a birthing center, but deliver in a hospital?

Women with low and moderate-risk pregnancies can receive care at a birth center but deliver at a hospital. Certified nurse midwives are master's-degree-trained in obstetrics and gynecology. And certified nurse midwifery practices can offer a full scope of care, including gynecological exams, family planning, preconception counseling, prenatal and postpartum care as well as breastfeeding support. Certified nurse midwives can also deliver their patients in a hospital. They work with nursing staff to carry out your birthing plan, support birth partners, and help with ways to cope with contractions. Some certified nurse midwives are also trained to help physicians during a cesarean section, if necessary.

Why are there so few birthing centers in Maryland?

There is a lack of education about options for care providers during pregnancy. The standard in the U.S. is care by an OB-GYN physician. Birth centers are considered nontraditional options. Some believe the myth that midwives only deliver babies at home. In reality, 90 percent of midwives deliver care in hospitals or birth centers. Birth centers are not always covered by insurance companies, which can then be cost prohibitive to the patient.

The birth of Margo Powell's second baby was a much different experience than her first. Her daughter, Erin, had hypertensive issues and Powell's doctor was unceremonious in handling the delivery.

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