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North Hills Monthly

Birthing Center Provides Alternative for Expecting Moms

Oct 31, 2017 05:17PM ● By Clare Heekin Lynch

Two of Anne Beach's three children were born at The Midwife Center.

Having a baby is such an exciting time for new parents, but it also comes with a lot of decisions—the first being the delivery plan. While there are many options for patients, midwifery has become more common over the past decade. According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM), in 2014, 8.3 percent of all U.S. births were delivered by certified nurse-midwives (CNM). In fact, statistics show a steady rise in CNM-attended births in the U.S. since 1989.

Christine Haas, executive director of The Midwife Center Birth & Women’s Health, has witnessed this growth firsthand, having been with the 35-year-old center for more than a decade. She says that while some women want the comfort of being in the hospital if something were to happen, others seek a more personalized, supportive and natural experience.

“As the first and only freestanding birth center in western Pennsylvania, we saw a 50 percent increase in births at our practice between 2007-2014,” she explained. “I think this is because women want a calm, peaceful environment to deliver their babies, all the while being surrounded by loved ones and qualified health care professionals.

“You wear your own clothing, eat and drink, labor and birth in whatever position feels best for you and your baby, and you’re free from IVs or continuous fetal monitoring, unless medically necessary,” she added. “After your baby is here, you are able to go home within 4 to 12 hours and enjoy the comfort of your own home, knowing our nurses will come visit you in the next one or two days.”

For McCandless resident Anne Beach, the first thing she noticed when she first visited The Midwife Center was the personalized care. “To be honest, having a midwife help deliver my first child wasn’t even a thought when developing my birth plan,” she said. “It was only after visiting a local hospital and feeling a bit intimidated and overwhelmed that I decided to visit The Midwife Center.

“I had an amazing first appointment–the environment was cozy and comfortable, and I knew that both my baby and I would be taken care of there,” she added.

After further research and talking with a good friend who happened to be an out-of-state midwife, Beach continued her prenatal appointments at the center. Though the mom of three ended up delivering at a local hospital due to complications, she remained a client at the center for her subsequent births. 

“The birth of my second child with my midwife was such an easy experience, and I was so excited to be able to go home and share her with her big brother and to be able to rest in my own bed that night,” said Beach.

The homelike facility is located on Penn Avenue in the Strip District. The first floor of the center houses three nature-themed birth suites, each with its own large bathroom with a tub, a family kitchen and extra space for family members and support people for clients in labor. A large waiting room, classroom, appointment rooms and administrative offices are located upstairs.

“From birth and delivery all the way to menopausal care, our center provides a wide range of primary care to our clients,” said Haas. “While our midwives focus on obstetrical care, they are also capable of providing primary gynecologic care, family planning and menopausal care as well.”

Midwives, which means ‘with women,’ also provide patients with the tools to make informed decisions. “We encourage our clients to take an active role in their own healthcare, and we help them make the best decisions for themselves with an emphasis on prenatal education and pain-mitigating techniques during pregnancy, labor and birth,” said Haas.

With the center’s expansion completed earlier this year, behavioral health services are now also available to all clients. “This has been such a great addition to what we already offered because studies and research show that having mental and behavioral health support both during pregnancy and postpartum is better for the overall health of the woman and the child,” Haas said.

She emphasized that like all CNMs, the center’s midwives are certified by examination either through the ACNM or the American College of Nurse-Midwives Certification Council, and they are licensed by the Pennsylvania Board of Medicine. “Our midwives also have privileges at our primary referral hospital, UPMC Mercy, which means that we can help you have your baby at the hospital if you desire or if the medical need arises,” said Haas.

“We believe that pregnancy and birth are a normal, natural part of life and that prenatal and birth care is not ‘one size fits all,’” she added. “Patients have a choice, and our end goal is a healthy mom and a healthy baby, which is demonstrated in our excellent outcomes for women and babies.”

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