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Citizens for Midwifery
Grassroots News Message  2013-1-31

How Consumers Can Help Birth Centers Become A Reality for Every Community

The National Birth Center Study II

Hello Friends,

While the whole nation has been watching the cesarean section rate and cost of maternity care climb ever-higher, midwife-led birth centers have been providing low-risk women with a safe, low-cost model of care with excellent outcomes and a c-section rate orders of magnitude lower than the national average.

The long-awaited National Birth Center Study II (Stapleton et al., 2013), published today in The Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health (the journal of the American College of Nurse Midwives), reported on outcomes of over 15,000 women planning to give birth at birth centers around the country between the years of 2007 and 2010. The American Association of Birth Centers has published an excellent summary of the study results for consumers.

Briefly, the main results showed:
  • 84% of women who started labor at the birth center, had their babies at the birth center.
  • 94% of women had vaginal births (whether they remained at the birth center or transferred to a hospital), with no evidence of compromised outcomes for babies.   (That is, only 6% of women who started labor at a birth center had a cesarean birth.)
  • The national average is 32.8%. According to the authors, the national c-section rate for low-risk women comparable to this sample is 27%.
  • The fetal and neonatal death rate was extremely low and comparable to what has been reported in other studies of low-risk populations.

Why is this study important for consumers to know about? The overall number of birth centers has been growing over the last ten years. However, if you Google the phrase, “birth center closing,” you will see story after story of communities around the country despairing as their birth centers were closing their doors for all sorts of reasons.

In some states, the regulations for birth centers represent barriers to getting them started. In others, the financial or physician back-up structure was not sustainable. The loss of birth centers leaves significant gaps in the continuum of care options for women, leaving them to choose care that is not optimally suited to their situation.

The solution to lowering the cesarean section rate and the astronomical maternity care costs in this country will be multifaceted, for sure. Today we have been given empirical evidence that support for birth centers, with their low-cost and excellent outcomes, should be a substantial piece of the equation.

What Can You Do?

If you already have a birth center in your community:
  • Support it! Send them love today on Facebook, host a fundraiser, become their champion.
If your community does not have a birth center:
  • Read the article and the consumer summary and share them on social media.
  • Host a meeting to gather energy, information, and support.
  • Learn about birth center regulations in your state and what the potential barriers may be.
  • Send a copy of the article to local doctors and hospital administrators.
As Amy Romano of Childbirth Connection said in her Transforming Maternity Care post, “Birth centers have met their moment.”

For midwife-led birth centers to thrive in the U.S., they need consumer champions. That's you!

How do you plan to support midwife-led birth centers? Tell us on Facebook and Twitter today and please share this message widely!

Yours in safe and respectful maternity care,
Lauren Korfine, PhD, & The CfMidwifery Team

Stapleton, S.R., Osborne, C., and Illuzzi, J. (2013). Outcomes of care in birth centers: Demonstration of a Durable Model. Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health, January/February, 2013.

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