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Examining standalone birth centers

For decades, the process that couples in Providence County went through when having a baby likely remained the same: Head to the hospital, deliver the baby, and return home a few days later. Recent years, however, have seen the rise of alternative birthing methods aimed at limiting the number of medical interventions needed during childbirth. Many try these new concepts believing that more natural delivery methods are better for both mother and baby.

With the introduction of this revised birthing philosophy has come an increase in the number of standalone birth centers. These facilities are typically staffed with midwives and nurses and often espouse the benefits of natural childbirth. Proponents of birth centers may claim that women who deliver in hospital Labor and Delivery units receive unnecessary interventions. The National Birth Center Study shows that women in L&D departments are given intravenous fluids in 80 percent of cases, and have labor artificially accelerated or induced in 47 and 43 percent of cases, respectively. Research also shows that continuous electronic fetal monitoring occurs in 87 percent of hospital L&D deliveries. Critics contend that such interventions only drive costs up and present risks to patients.

However, as many already know, labor is hardly a routine procedure and the potential for complications can be high. Standards established by the American Association of Birth Centers show that providers in birth centers should not attempt deliveries if any of the following intrapartum interventions are required:

  •          The administration or pharmacologic agents to control labor.
  •          Fetal monitoring beyond the use of a hand-held ultrasound device.
  •          The administration of regional or epidural anesthesia.
  •          C-section or operative vaginal deliveries.

Birth center providers who fail to recognize the immediate need for such interventions could put their patients’ lives (and those of their unborn children) at risk.


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