In 2009, I had my first child. As an inexperienced mother, I had no clue the options I had for delivery. I felt out of my shell, so I went to the local obstetrician and followed her every idea and rule she had toward pregnancy. My doctor made every decision during my pregnancy and delivery for me, such as who could be in the room when I had an ultrasound and delivery, she decided that I would be induced on a specific day at a specific time, and even dictated that I would have an epidural. The epidural not only made it impossible for me to walk around or move half of body to get comfortable, the anesthesiologist (the epidural administrator) missed the nerve and gave me a headache for two weeks.
During my hospital stay and after my daughter was born, I was not taken care of properly by the nurses who were assigned to me, which caused hemorrhaging and infection that could have taken my life and furthermore, I was sent home with the placenta still in my body, leaking poison into my blood system. My terrible experience in the hospital setting really forced me to search for alternative methods of childbirth for my next child.
Before I chose a hospital birth, I had read some expectancy books about the new rave of pregnancy, birthing centers. However, I never researched much on them because they were a new idea to me, and I wasn’t sure how comfortable my husband and I would be in that setting. Apparently I was not the only one with unfulfilling experiences during labor and delivery. In the past 20 years, women have demanded more personalized care, making birthing centers more prominent and accessible through more cities and insurance companies than in the 1980s (Canadian Medical Association Journal).
What are birthing centers?
According to The Merriam Webster Medical Dictionary, birthing centers are “facilities usually staffed by nurse-midwives that provide a less institutionalized setting than a hospital for women who wish to deliver by natural childbirth” (EBSCO Host). Birthing centers provide individuals who wish to have a more planned labor and delivery the freedom to choose or decline care or options that, in a hospital, would be routine or required. The centers also offer a range of professional care, from obstetricians and gynecologists, to nurse midwives and doulas, as well as alternative pain relief plans other than I.V. pain medications and the epidural, various delivery rooms, and breastfeeding support systems.
Why women are choosing birthing centers
Women have started choosing the birthing centers because they are given more control over the prenatal and perinatal care they wish to have during their experience. For many, the experience during childbirth is more important than the entire nine months of pregnancy. Some women want to share the moments only with their husband or significant other, while others are more open to sharing experiences with other close friends and family members, and birthing centers allow more leniencies for what the mother wants, rather than putting rules in place for her to follow. For a woman who is nine months pregnant, that is important!
Another common reason for the rise in choice of birthing centers is that women can have the option to leave with her baby after fewer hours (as little as three) after delivery (in a natural childbirth) than in a hospital, where the average stay is 36 hours (amazingpregnancy.com). Even the number of insurance companies that had birthing centers in their policies has more than doubled in the last 10 years, helping make the choice between hospitals and birthing centers easier for women conform less to the medical procedures and interruption of the powerful experience between a mother and a newborn (Association of Birth Centers).
Most hospitals deny a vaginal birth for a woman who has already had a cesarean section previously, although the advanced medical technology has suggested for some women there is no medical necessity for such births to follow for a case-specific cesarean section (Rubin). No matter which delivery a woman goes through, each perinatal (post birth) nurse in a hospital is assigned to multiple rooms on their shifts. These nurses have to tend to women wanting their babies in and out of their rooms for feeding, bonding and resting times, making sure each woman is receiving the correct perinatal care, and monitoring the visitors of each room. After those responsibilities, there isn’t much room left for one-on-one care.
While I was in the hospital with my daughter, the amount of time between my request for care or a need and a nurse actually administering that care was generally 45 minutes. Waiting so long can be frustrating and angering depending on the need.
Some women prefer home births
Hospitals and birthing centers are not the only options for expecting mothers, however. Home births have been in the rise in the last few years, partly due to Ricki Lake’s publication The Business of Being Born, a documentary on the difference in hospitals and home births. The film captures her experiences of her second delivery in a home-birth setting compared to her first, which was in a hospital with an epidural. Lake’s documentary showed how home births can offer comfort and total control of labor and delivery, with a nurse midwife readily available to coach and assist.
The setback is that in a case where a woman would experience severe complications, emergency care could not be administered instantly. Although birthing centers and their staff are very different from hospitals and how they treat patients, both have emergency care readily available in the event that the care would be needed.
Other concerns of expectant parents are the reliability of their caregivers, if their midwife is available on an all-hour basis or on a rotation with other midwives and doctors, and the experience of the staff members. Many women find that because birthing centers are newer than hospitals, their midwife doesn’t have the experience that an obstetrician in a hospital can offer, where a wide range of births and deliveries are experienced every day.
Birth centers offer comfort and intimate care for new mothers and their babies
The delivery and postpartum care administered to me in a hospital opened my eyes to the world of options for pregnancy, labor and delivery. I do not want another near-death experience due to the carelessness of busy nurses and doctors. As more women like me decide they want more control over their bodies and birth experiences, birthing center hospitals will increase.
Birth centers have been offering comfort, need and intimate care for women and their newborn babies for last 20 years. Perhaps as even more eyes are opened to the control of personal experiences during labor and delivery, birthing centers will become a custom in the United States and other countries with similar new experiences on the topic, such as Canada and parts of Europe where hospitals are the normalcy among expectant parents.