Birth Center Frequently Asked Questions
A free-standing birth center is a home-like maternity center that is often close to a hospital. Many hospitals call their labor and delivery wards “birth centers”, however, they are not the same. A free-standing birth center is designed specifically for healthy women choosing an out-of-hospital birth experience. Typically, a free-standing birth center utilizes a midwifery philosophy of care that is rooted in the understanding that with support and education a pregnant woman is the person most equipped to make the best decisions regarding her own health and the health of her children.
Unlike hospitals, birth centers never employ the following interventions:
- Induction and augmentation of labor with oxytocin
- Continuous electronic fetal monitoring
- Epidural anesthesia
- Cesarean section
Birth Centers do:
- Encourage labor using non-pharmaceutical methods
- Provide intermittent fetal monitoring
- Offer continuous labor support and assist women to use natural tools to work with the intensity of labor
- Have lower rates of transfers leading to cesarean birth
Giving birth is safe. Despite what is depicted in the media, women are able to give birth safely and normally. At the same time there are inherent risks regardless of where a woman is giving birth. There are large, well-designed studies that have examined the question of safety of out-of-hospital birth. The results are conclusive. For women without risk-factors, out-of-hospital birth attended by a skilled provider and hospital birth of similar groups have equivalent safety outcomes. However, out-of-hospital birth utilizes hands-on midwifery care rather than medical intervention to provide safe outcomes. Drugs and surgery are medically indicated for a small number of women. During our monthly tour you will have access to more information about the safety of giving birth in a birth center.
A midwife is a specialist in normal pregnancy, birth, and post-partum care.
Midwifery philosophy is rooted in the understanding that:
- Pregnancy and birth are normal, healthy life processes
- Birth can be one of the most powerful experiences of life
- Midwifery care usually begins in pregnancy but often continues throughout the lifespan
- Midwifery care emphasizes informed decision-making. We understand that women will make the best decisions for themselves and their families. It our job to ensure that adequate information and unbiased support are available for the decision-making process.
- Women, babies, and their families benefit from midwifery care
The midwives at Pacifica have on call days that they attend births, days they work in the clinic, and days off. Our appointments are much longer than typical OB appointments so you have time to get to know and become comfortable with the midwives. We will encourage you to join our group prenatals which will provide you with more opportunities for learning, sharing, and creating community. Our midwives are committed to helping you have the safest and easiest birth possible in an environment that is sensitive to you and your baby. Our midwives have a shared philosophy and practice under the same guidelines so you can be assured that you will receive consistent care.
Yes! We strongly encourage you to come to one of our monthly tours to see the center and meet the midwives and staff. You are encouraged to bring your support people and your questions. Please sign up for an orientation session here.
Many women choose to labor in the water tubs and some stay in the tub and give birth in the water. You will be encouraged to find your own path and what is right for you and your baby.
The experience of the intensity of giving birth is as individual as each woman and family. As such, the approach to working with each labor is unique. During your prenatal care with the midwives the topic of managing the sensations of labor is discussed extensively.
Some tools to manage pain include:
- Continuous physical and emotional support
- Water therapy
- Freedom of movement
- A private, peaceful environment that you can make your own.
A small number of women will require pharmacologic pain management. We will support her decision to transfer care to the hospital if a need for medical pain relief occurs.
Pacifica is prepared for complications and has the equipment and skill to handle emergencies. There is oxygen and suction equipment available. The midwives can provide intravenous infusion (IV) and have emergency medications readily available. There will be at least two skilled attendants at your birth. The nurses and midwives have all been trained in infant resuscitation. An ambulance transfer is rare and most problems can be resolved without leaving Pacifica. Most transfers occur simply because the birth is taking very long and the mother needs medical assistance to augment her labor. Pacifica follows the standards set by the American Association of Birth Centers. We are located in close proximity to Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and will transfer your medical care to the skilled physicians at Alta Bates if your complications require the care of an OB/GYN. In order to ensure that you are always supported one of our staff will remain with you for the remainder of your birth and during the immediate postpartum period.
Do I need to have an OB/GYN or MD as well as midwife for my prenatal care of in case of an emergency?
The midwives can provide all of your prenatal care and testing. You do not need a physician unless the pregnancy becomes complicated. Our Medical Director is a Board Certified Obstetrician/Gynecologist and is available for consultation as needed.
The birth center is open to families who received their prenatal care with the midwives at Pacifica. At the initiation of care, all women will be screened for risk-factors that would be outside of the scope of midwifery care. Risk assessment is an ongoing process throughout pregnancy, labor, and post-partum.
We are committed to serving the diverse community of the greater Bay Area. We aspire to create an environment that reflects the faces of the families we serve.
We look forward to serving:
- Those who are LGBT and queer-identified
- Those who are transgendered
- Those who have needs or desires that are not best addressed in the typical office setting.
- Those of all ages, ethnicities, income levels, physical abilities, education levels, and regardless of immigration status.
Our commitment to an inclusive approach to health care is only surpassed by our desire to address the unique needs of each family we serve.