An Insight into the Advantages and Disadvantages of Birth Centers

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With technology on the rise and an increased experience from the past there is now a confusing array of choices that the pregnant mother has to deliver her baby (Harding, 2003). These models affect the type of care she receives, the location of her birth, the type of birth she endures, the people that surround her and also the care her baby will receive in an emergency. The social, emotional, spiritual and physical health determinants will all be affected relative to the model of care that is chosen. The purpose of this paper is to provide an insight into the advantages and disadvantages of birth centers, specifically participating in group practice midwifery and analyse how this affects a pregnant mother’s holistic health and the babies. Group practice in birth centers are midwifery-based forms of care and provide many benefits including, continuity of care, excellent shared decision making and cost. However this model of care does pose some problems including the lack of pain medication and whether birthing centers are the safest option for both mother and child.

Other models of care including obstetric models place less emphasis on continuity of care and therefore marginalize the mother’s holistic health. For example public obstetric care still provides the mother with antenatal care but the mother could see a different obstetrician each time she has a check up. This results in no form of relationship with the team who will deliver her baby, which affects the mothers social and emotional health determinants. Birthing centers contrast this model by providing the same team of midwives throughout the entire pregnancy. This method therefore heightens the mother’s confidence in her team and all members of the team have an understanding of the mother choices rather than duplicating information as seen in shared maternity care. The first birthing center was opened in 1945 and was called “La Casita”. It was located in rural New Mexico to provide a birthing place for mothers who lived to far from the hospitals (Sibbold and Ping, 2010). People followed suit and birthing centers soon became renowned for giving quality, inexpensive care to low risk women and in 1989 the National Birth Center Study suggested, “Birth centers provide safety, satisfaction and savings comparable to other birth settings”.

Birth centers essentially create a homey experience for delivering a child. Rooms are set up in a natural bedroom style environment. Page (2003) explains that these centers place emphasis on family and put a specific ethos into practice to ensure quality care and support for mother, child and family. Birthing Centers only take low risk women and do perform interventions such as episiotomies, forceps or ventouse deliveries. Centers can be privately funded or can be connected to a hospital and funded through the hospital. These two types of centers create a large margin in whether it is safe to be a stand-alone practice. Birthing centers are also usually small which creates an intimate environment that allows families to become familiar with all the staff, which is something that is not provided in a public midwifery or obstetric setting as different staff could appear each time a mother seeks care during her pregnancy.

“What probably matters most is that she (the child bearing woman) should feel that they (the midwives) are competent and that they care- about her” (Green et al., 1998). Continuity of care is crucial for pregnant mothers and also for midwives. Continuity of care refers to the consistency of care given from the midwives; whether it is in antenatal checks, during labour or postnatal. Women value special relationships and when they have carers who they know it puts them at far more ease during delivery and during antenatal and postnatal checkups. (Garcia et al., 1998) gives her account of knowing her midwives and receiving continuity of care for her second child in contrast to how she had her first child. She states...
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