Birth centers: a different way of giving birthFebruary 2014

For over 50 years, nearly all childbirths have taken place in hospital settings. This medical supervision ensures maximum safety and perfectly meets the needs of most mothers. Yet some women are now seeking an alternative: a gentler, more natural birth assisted by a midwife rather than an obstetrician, as well as labor without an epidural, in which they will be fully involved.


Alternative childbirth

Far from the hospital’s highly medicalized environment, birth centers offer a safe and human alternative mid-way between a maternity ward and a home birth. The objective? To provide women with comprehensive support by the same midwife from the start of pregnancy to the birth of their baby, and to offer a warm, cozy setting for giving birth that looks more like a home than a hospital.

Childbirth takes place in an environment that does not have the medicalized atmosphere of a hospital. The baby’s heartbeat can be monitored, but an epidural is not available. Women are, however, offered various ways of managing pain, such as balloons, baths, homeopathy, massages and specific types of movements. Throughout labor and after childbirth, each woman is assisted by the midwife who has developed a personal relationship with her during the previous nine months.



Safety first

To ensure maximum safety, however, it’s important to note that not all women can give birth in a center. Only women with complication-free pregnancies expecting one child (no multiple births) and who have not previously had a Caesarian section can use a birth center. Under these conditions, several studies have demonstrated that childbirth in a birth center presents no additional risks as compared to a hospital.

Furthermore, birth centers are not designed to compete with maternity hospitals or replace them. Instead, they only represent the small percentage of mothers seeking a natural birth experience. In countries where they are already established, only 3-5% of childbirths take place in birth centers.

Does the idea of an alternative birth experience appeal to you, or do you prefer the traditional setting of a hospital?

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