I envision a new kind of birthing environment in Orange County, specifically designed for low-risk women desirous of unmedicated birth. Birth suites in a hospital environment that are not only beautiful in design, but also set up in a manner conducive to women laboring without medication and without intervention. I’m talking about a room with a spacious tub to labor in, a comfortable queen bed, the ability to go without an IV if appropriate, the ability to eat and drink in labor, to be monitored on an intermittent basis, and to have nurses and providers who are supportive and excited about their birth preferences. I’m talking about a true in-hospital birth center staffed exclusively by midwives, in the safety net of a hospital environment. And I’m thrilled to report that the vision is becoming a reality. Dr. James and I are pioneering a birth center at Mission Hospital, which will open this April.
As of now, women who are pursuing an unmedicated birth must choose between out-of-hospital births and a hospital birth. Home births, and free-standing birth center births, are great options for low risk women, but not everyone is comfortable with the idea of delivering in an environment remote from pain relief or emergency resources. Hospital birth, on the other hand, may or may not be supportive of unmedicated mamas who desire few, if any, medical interventions. (Ultimately it depends on the provider and nurses attending that birth.) Don’t get me wrong – I have attended beautiful births at local hospitals. The Mission Birth Center will continue the efforts of these hospitals in catering to women who want an unmedicated birth, but will take it much further. The birth center suites will have spacious labor tubs, comfortable queen beds, salt lamps, flameless candles, diffusers for aromatherapy, speakers, dim lighting. In short, everything to create an intimate home-like environment. Nurse and midwife will be present throughout active labor providing positive affirmations, encouraging position changes, using a handheld Doppler to intermittently monitor baby’s well-being, and ultimately holding the space for women to labor and birth on their own terms.
Women birthing in this environment will be low risk, will have been working with a midwife over the course of her pregnancy and will be taking childbirth education classes to prepare her for this experience. Should interventions be needed– which we all know happens occasionally – no problem! We move that mama down the hall to a traditional L&D room where interventions are readily available. If a woman changes her mind and desires an epidural, or a situation arises in which continuous fetal monitoring and/or Pitocin are needed, we would simply move that mama to a different room on L&D, one set up with the usual medical equipment. This transition is seamless. The midwife can continue to be her provider, and we continue to support her in having the safest and most empowering birth experience possible.
I feel like this is truly the best of both worlds! We will support low-risk women and physiologic birth, but will have access to emergency resources (epidural, Pitocin, continuous fetal monitoring, instrument delivery, cesarean) at our fingertips. There is a 24/7 on-site OBGYN physician available at all times in case I need assistance, and of course our favorite doc – Dr. James – is just minutes away should we need him.
Coincidentally, I was born via Cesarean at Mission Hospital a good number of years ago. I love that my journey has brought me to this point – as a midwife launching an in-hospital birth center that expands options for natural birthing in Orange County!