Some of the features of a birth center include:
Private, homey rooms
Creating a relaxed environment is a primary goal of birth centers Most offer spacious, private rooms, with bathroom, TV, and sleeping accommodations for a support person. Others provide separate birthing rooms with a large tub, low lighting, etc., and a post-partum recovery room where couples are encouraged to bring items from home, including lamps, pictures, music, and bedding.
Mobility during labor
In traditional hospital births, the woman is kept in the supine position for labor and delivery. However, it is neither efficient nor natural for a woman to remain on her back for the whole of childbirth — consider gravity and the task at hand. Movement helps labor progress naturally, and contractions are frequently better weathered squatting, on all fours, lying over a birthing ball, or sitting on a birthing stool. At a birth center you are not connected to IVs and heart rate monitors at all times. You will be encouraged to walk the halls, move about your room, and change positions as often as you’d like.
Though you may want to rush to the hospital at the first sign of labor (especially if it’s your first), it is recommended you adhere to the 4-1-1 rule: Wait until contractions are four minutes apart, lasting for at least one minute, and have been doing so for an hour or more. If you arrive at the hospital too early, your labor may slow or stop altogether in the new and bustling environment. With the traditional approach you were more likely to be given labor inducing drugs to speed things along, which can trigger a cascade of interventions. At a birth center, the natural labor process will be respected.
No hospital gowns
Though they may be available, hospital gowns are not required apparel. Neither are masks, hats, booties, and scrubs for dad or anyone else attending the birth (unless you have a C-section). You can also bring your own diapers, clothes, and blankets for the baby.
Natural is the norm
While the incidence of induction and anesthesia is still significantly higher in a hospital birth center, birth plans that do not include anesthesia will likely be acknowledged and respected. Epidurals, intrathecals (“walking” epidurals), Caesareans suites, forceps, vacuums, and other tools for intervention are on hand, but theoretically considered Plan B’s. To accommodate the desire for a natural birth, nurses, midwives, and doctors will encourage alternative pain management strategies including hypnosis, meditation, showers, walking, birth balls, or the birthing tub.
Education and support
Many birth centers offer a wide array of classes to prepare and empower expectant and new families, including pre- and postnatal exercise; infant CPR; sibling preparation; childbirth, labor, and delivery; and breastfeeding support and education.
Midwives and Doulas
The incorporation of certified nurse midwives into obstetric practices has become common. Prenatal visits with a midwife are generally 30 minutes longer than those with an OB/GYN. The use of doulas is also common in birth centers. Doulas are a non-medical labor support person and advocate who offers support to both mother, and partner. Statistics show that the use of a doula increases the chance of having a natural childbirth by over fifty percent.
Proponents of water birth cite benefits to the laboring mother including less painful contractions, greater relaxation, and a more peaceful transition from the womb for the newborn.
Child development experts agree that the moments after birth are a critical time for bonding to begin, to take advantage of the flood of hormones released in natural childbirth and also to initiate breastfeeding. At a birth center, your baby will go right into your arms upon delivery. At Neugarten all newborn care, including tests and check-ups are done in-room. Many centers, in lieu of a traditional nursery, will honor a parent’s request that the baby stay in-room for the duration.
It is estimated that one in three women delivers by C-section, making it the most common surgery performed in U.S. hospitals today. The high rate of C-sections has made the question of vaginal birth after Caesarean (VBAC) a pertinent and controversial one. The extensive internal scarring caused by C-sections is considered a significant risk factor under the stress of natural labor in subsequent pregnancies; for this reason, hospitals almost unilaterally do not permit VBACS. Many birth centers will attempt a VBAC.
Many centers have lactation consultants and nurses on staff that are qualified to assist new moms with the task of learning to breastfeed their newborn in those first days. Many birth centers encourage on-demand breastfeeding which increases the likelihood of a long-term nursing relationship.
Looking for a local birth center? Read about the The Neugarten Family Birth Center here.