The birth world was abuzz this week with the release of a recent review of birth center outcomes by the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health. The study followed more than 15,000 moms-to-be who were planning to give birth within a midwife-run birth center.
The conclusion of the review showed birth centers to be a safe and affordable option for women who are considered to be low-risk; about 85% of the population. The study found that the births of women choosing a birth center are 4 times less likely to result in a cesarean section. 84% of the participants were successful in a vaginal birth within a birth center and only 0.9% were emergency transfers to a local hospital. Fetal deaths were rare and there were no maternal deaths in the study. Birth center births are also found to be much more economical than a hospital birth due to the lack of unnecessary interventions.
“In this study alone, cost savings–mainly from fewer medical interventions (including cesareans)–were estimated at more than $30 million, and these 15,574 pregnancies represent less than 1% of all U.S. births. Given that expenses for hospital birth in 2008 exceeded $97 billion nationwide, the opportunity for savings in these health-care-dollar-scarce times is enormous.” -Dr. Mark Sloan
While the findings of the birth center study are exciting, there were a few eyebrow-raising issues. Most of the participants were college educated, mentally healthy, slim, white women. While the study’s findings were comparable to other studies, it isn’t necessarily accurately representing the U.S. population. For example, 50% of pregnant Americans are overweight or obese, yet only 5.7% of the participants of the study met that description.
Only 32% of American birth centers are represented in this study. The 79 birth centers that did participate were all AABC members thus adhering to AABC’s standards. Other birth centers in the country, especially non-AABC members, may or may not have different standards and, as a result, not be up to par with the birth centers in the study.
It’s important for mom-to-be to do their research when choosing a birth center.