My third baby would not have qualified for delivery at a natural birthing center. Like many women, I had complications. Nothing incredibly serious but I needed constant monitoring.
I was polyhydramnios, meaning I had too much amniotic fluid, and the complications that could come along with that required constant monitoring during labor. Additionally, she was delivered at 36 weeks, which is considered premature, after I had been leaking the amniotic fluid for an undetermined amount of time. This required both of us to receive IV antibiotics, mine during labor and her for 48 hours after birth. While my entire labor and delivery process was less than two hours, I panicked toward the end and wanted an epidural.
This wasn’t how I had envisioned my last labor and delivery experience. I had prepared for a natural birth with soothing music, utilizing the in-room shower and birthing ball for pain management. I had studied up. I had two children before this so I knew what was up again. I practiced getting through contractions and made my husband aware of my goal.
Things just didn’t go as I planned. And that’s one of the reasons why a birth center wasn’t the right option for me – and in many cases, isn’t the best option for moms-to-be.
So many women come up with birth plans or get an idea in their heads about how the birth of their child should go, but labor will stall, pain will take over or babies will be breech or too big for the birth canal.
Paula Fishbaugh is an obstetrician at Beaumont Health and delivers babies at the Karmanos Center for Natural Birth at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
“I remind the women who want to have natural births that they are not failures if they can’t do it. You can’t predict how this will turn out and sometimes plans need to be altered,” says Fishbaugh.
Medication and fetal monitoring
The Alternative Birth Center at St. John Providence Hospital in Southfield also has strict guidelines on who can attempt natural childbirth in the center.
“We don’t do Pitocin or inductions in the Alternative Birth Center. A lot of women want to go into labor on the day they choose, we don’t do that,” says Carol Fuller, director of Perinatal and Pediatric Services at St. John Providence Health System. “The unit doesn’t do fetal monitoring except to make sure the baby is nice and healthy for labor.”
At both birth centers, there are a number of prerequisites that a woman must meet before being deemed eligible to deliver in those units. The moms must complete natural childbirth preparation; they must not need continuous monitoring or an epidural. They also must not have complications, risk factors or medical conditions that could compromise the delivery.
Other options for moms
All hope is not lost for women who still want a natural birth. Many of the traditional birth units have similar amenities for women to use to attempt the natural birth despite being ineligible for the natural birth centers or wanting the option for an epidural.
“We’re actually using birthing balls in our traditional labor and delivery units. We have begun training our nurses in the methods used in the Alternative Birth Center,” says Fuller. “As our patients come in asking for different things like aromatherapy, the nurses are learning more about it and being receptive to it.”
The Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor isn’t deemed a natural birth center, however, according to Nurse Midwifery Director Joanne Bailey, the hospital has options for women who want to have a natural birth.
“We have a strong midwife group, family medicine group and OB colleagues. We all care for women in the Von Voightlander Women’s Hospital Birth Center. Part of the birth center includes eight rooms that have large tubs and beautiful views,” says Bailey. “Everyone has access to birth balls and peanut balls and alternative birth measures.”
Bailey says women who want to have a natural birth are supported, just as those who would like to receive an epidural, need medication or require constant monitoring.
“Women who have uncomplicated pregnancies, and are healthy themselves and labor starts spontaneously and continues on its own, are good candidates for unmediated births. There are great labor support techniques for those who need more intervention. We make sure all of the nurses have a lot of strong labor support skills,” says Bailey.
Beaumont Health hospitals also offer birth balls, showers and roll-in tubs for women in traditional labor and delivery rooms.
Whether it happens in the natural birth center, a traditional labor and delivery room or operating room, Fishbaugh says everyone wants the same outcome.
“You just want to have a healthy baby and healthy mom,” Fishbaugh says.
This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2016.