When Special Beginnings Birth and Women's Center opens this week in Arnold, it will be the first facility in Anne Arundel County where women can deliver babies with the assistance of certified nurse midwives, but with no doctors nearby.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has discouraged such freestanding alternative birth centers except when geographical isolation forces reliance on them -- a position that Special Beginnings staffers disagree with.
The center in the 1400 block of Baltimore Annapolis Blvd., affiliated with North Arundel Hospital in Glen Burnie, expects to start seeing patients this week, according to Eileen Pagano, the director of midwifery.
The new two-story building includes, in addition to examining rooms and classrooms, four bedrooms where women will deliver.
The first client at the center will likely be Catherine Sullivan. The 32-year-old Glen Burnie woman will deliver her fifth child there around July 8 -- a choice she made, she said, because her experiences with hospitals have been traumatic.
"When we get to the actual hospital, when that panic part strikes, knowing that drugs are right there, you wind up falling into that trap, and it becomes a medicated birth," she said. "You need a lot of emotional support when you're in labor, and I didn't get it."
The birth center's three staff midwives will have hospital privileges at Anne Arundel Medical Center, about five miles away. North Arundel Hospital does not have a maternity unit.
The birthing center is the second in the county. The first is the Bay Area Midwifery Center, which opened in Annapolis in February in a basement suite next to a pavilion at the Anne Arundel Medical Center. It is accredited by the National Association of Childbearing Centers, but no baby has been born there.
If a client suffered a complication during delivery, midwives could wheel her on a gurney though a tunnel to the hospital in about two minutes.
The Washington, D.C.-based American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists acknowledges that certified nurse midwives can take charge of deliveries in uncomplicated births, but it has been critical of freestanding birthing centers.
"Until scientific studies are available to evaluate safety and outcome in freestanding alternative birth centers, such centers cannot be encouraged," according to a statement of policy issued by the ACOG's executive board. "The hospital setting provides the safest atmosphere for mother, fetus and infant during labor, delivery and in the postpartum period."
Dr. David L. Joyce, the gynecologist who supervises New Beginnings, countered by saying, "You're looking at small differences in a very safe mode either way."
Joyce has practiced for 11 years and has offices in Annapolis, Pasadena, Bowie and Odenton.
He will review the charts of each client at least twice during pregnancy, looking for such risks as diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia or inappropriate fetal growth.
"You select out the people who are going to give you trouble and make them go to the hospital," he said.
Pub Date: 4/17/97