Today something wonderful happened for birth in the United States of America. The American Association of Birth Centers posted an easy to read explanation of The National Birth Center Study II- a comprehensive research study detailing the clinical experience of birthing in a birth center. The study was published yesterday in The Journal of Midwifery and Women's Health.
Oh, and that experience is truly fabulous.
When I found myself pregnant with my second baby in Dallas Texas I didn't feel that hospital birth was the best option for me. I had experienced an uneventful and low risk pregnancy and natural birth with my first baby. I had not heard good things about the hospitals in my area. In fact the shining, marble covered hospital up the street from me had one of the very highest c-section rates in the entire state of Texas. (Every thing's bigger in Texas!)
So despite the convenience of that hospital I started looking around.
We were very low income at the time and I qualified for government aid to have my baby. While home birth wouldn't be covered, a birth center birth was. I found a birth center I loved about an hour north of me in Denton Texas.
The drive was worth it.
I had a quick water birth at that birth center with my trusted midwife sitting next to me. She spent most of my labor in a rocking chair.
It was a beautiful experience and it changed my life. I KNEW then that you could hold your baby immediately after birth. I learned in that birth center birth that a baby never taken from it's mother often nurses easier. I became a believer in out-of-hospital birth.
So today's new study confirming the SAFETY and BENEFITS of birth center birth is no surprise to me. I have experienced it and it is wonderful. Not only are birth centers a great option for women who want personalized, “homey” care, but they are often the only option outside of a hospital for women who really want a natural birth. Very often insurance DOESN'T cover home birth but WILL cover birth center birth.
So what is so fabulous about this study?
Have you heard about the cesarean section rate in this country? It is actually over 30%.
Yup. About 1/3 of American women are birthing via an incision in their abdomen. The cesarean is lifesaving and wonderful if needed and some argue that it is needed this often.
The birth center study found very differently.
“One of the most important findings of this study was that more than 9 out of 10 women (94%) who entered labor planning a birth center birth achieved a vaginal birth.”
How about them apples?! That is a huge difference, isn't it?
Now some people argue that of course the rates of c-section are lower at a birth center because birth centers limit their patients and will not see women deemed “high risk”.
That might be a valid point, however it FAILS to add up in this case. Yes, only low risk women are allowed to birth in a birth center. But look at what the c-section rate is for comparable, low risk women birthing in the hospital-
“In other words, the C-section rate for low-risk women who chose to give birth at a birth center was only 6%—compared to the U.S. C-section rate of 27% for low-risk women. This means that the C-section rate for women in birth centers is more than 4 times lower than what is seen among low-risk women in the U.S.”
Yes. You read that right. Low risk women birthing in the hospital have a 27% chance of cesarean while those same type of women birthing in a birth center have a chance of only 6%.
Well ladies- this is good news. But don't just take my word for it.
Go read the AABC explanation at http://birthcenters.org/research. (There is lots more information in it!) You can find the National Birth Center Study at the Journal of Midwifery's website where it is accessible to the public for free! (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi10.1111/jmwh.12003/full). While you are checking them out, go like the Facebook page for the American Association of Birth Centers at facebook.com/birthcenters. Take a minute and browse around their fabulous Facebook page. You will find tons of graphics talking about this groundbreaking study. You can share them with your friends and spread the word about the safety of birth center birth. You can also check out some of the AABC videos on YouTube and hear real families talk about their experience with birth centers.
Thank you to the many women and men who make birth center birth possible for women.
(A special thanks to Rosemary Senjem, of the marketing committee of The American Association of Birth Centers who gave me permission to use their graphics in this article. Go to their Facebook page, like it, and tell her thank you!)
Any mistakes in the article are mine and I take full responsibility. (Edited 9:45 AM California time, Feb 1st, 2012.)
Sarah Clark is a mother, a writer, a natural birth teacher, and serves on the management team for Birth Boot Camp, a company offering online and in-person childbirth education classes. She has four kids, a husband, and a great time being alive. Sometimes she even sleeps. You can find her most days on her natural birth blog, Mama Birth.