The number of women planning births outside a hospital grew over 80 percent over a five-year period as more women seek to take control of their birthing experiences. Our Health Reporter Erin Billups takes a look at the latest birthing center to open in the city and filed the following report.
There are now three birthing centers in New York City: The free-standing Brooklyn Birthing Center, Mount Sinai's Roosevelt has an in-hospital center and New York Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan recently opened its own.
"The C-section rate is very high and rising in this country, why is that? And women are tired of being treated more like an object when they come into a place instead of really being a birthing mother. That’s where the paradigm has changed," says Dr. Jacques Moritz, Birthing Center Director at NY Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan Hospital.
At birthing centers there isn't constant fetal monitoring, pitocin to speed up labor or epidurals to quell labor pains. But unlike other similar facilities this one offers nitrous oxide or laughing gas. But it's not for everyone.
"So first thing is you have to know yourself. How do deal with pain, are you willing to try this? Do you believe in the process. Do you believe that having a baby is a natural process?" Moritz notes.
Women with high-risk pregnancies like twins, gestational diabetes, or high blood pressure would not be able to deliver in a birthing center. But for those that can, the goal is to offer a less institutional experience with the safety net of the hospital a few steps away.
More than 10 percent of women who labor at birthing centers end up being transferred to a hospital due to complications or the need for medication.
"If you need an epidural, you're not a failure, you tried. No big deal. You leave this room, and you get the medical part with all that comes with it," Moritz says.
Once in active labor mothers are admitted. They're free to use the shower, the jacuzzi or even a sling to help them cope with labor pains.
"This allows the woman to be supported, so she would lay her whole weight into this and allow her belly to just sit and her legs to relax and let that pressure come down without needing to support all of her weight on her legs, or her partner having to support all of her weight," says Rita Wagner, Certified Nurse Midwife at NY Presbyterian-Lower Manhattan Hospital.
And after the baby is born mom and dad can relax on a bed large enough for them both.
"That's our whole goal to make them feel like they are in a home environment," adds Wagner.
Around 30 women have successfully given birth since the center opened in December.