In a recent post I told my crazy labor story. Of course I was to have a healthy baby and no major medial issues for either of us. But I kept wondering if things would have been less chaotic for us if we'd been in a birth center instead of a hospital. My labor nurse and midwife were excellent and my husband was a first-rate labor coach. But since I was at a hospital, I was constantly being poked and probed and monitored in ways that I felt disrupted my (hellacious back) labor. I'd chosen a hospital birth because it just seemed like the safest choice, and my insurance would cover it.
Hopefully, the latest study on birth centers will change how we all see birth centers, and their affordability. More and more expecting moms are choosing to deliver at midwife-led birth centers. And it turns out, not only are they a lot safer than you'd think, they're also surprisingly affordable.
The American Association of Birth Center's study looked at 15,500 women planning for a birth-center birth in 33 states (and 79 different centers) from 2007-2010. Here's what they found.
- Emergency transfers from birth centers to hospitals are rare. Eighty-four percent of the women planning for a birth-center birth at the onset of labor gave birth there. Most who transferred before birth did so for non-emergency reasons (like prolonged labor). A tiny fraction, 2.5 percent, were transferred to a hospital after delivering.
- Birth centers have MUCH lower c-section rates. Almost all the moms, 93 percent, had a vaginal birth while only 6 percent had a c-section. Compare that with low-risk mothers who deliver their babies in a hospital: A whopping 27 percent of those births are via c-section.
- Infant mortality rates are about the same. Of the women admitted to birth centers in labor, there were only 14 stillbirths, and 9 babies died after birth. This is about the same as the national average for low-risk hospital births. Two of the babies who died had already been diagnosed with fatal conditions, and the mothers chose to carry out those sad births in a warmer, more home-like environment.
- There were no maternal deaths.
- Birth center births can cost nearly half as much as low-risk hospital births. The Medicare reimbursement for a hospital birth is around $3,998, but for a birth center, it's nearly half, $1,907. Obviously we aren't all on Medicare, but that gives you an idea of the difference in costs.
Of course, for us moms, that doesn't matter unless our insurance is covering that birth. Fortunately, the new Affordable Health Care Act mandates coverage for birth centers across the U.S. If more moms choose a birth center birth over a hospital birth, it could save Americans and insurance companies a lot of money. Best of all, moms and babies get high-quality care at birth centers.
Did you give birth at a birth center instead of a hospital? What was your experience like?
Image via eyeliam/Flickr