Tina’s midwives helped her with the transition to an obstetrician (OB) who understood her desire for a natural birth. She delivered Ryker vaginally, but labor was induced and, many hours later, Tina finally accepted pain medication. There were complications. “Ryker came out not breathing properly,” Tina says. “Looking back, I am grateful I was allowed to have my second child vaginally, grateful that the midwives found me a doctor who didn’t require a C-section, and so thankful for the nurses and doctors at the hospital who helped Ryker.”
Tina’s story demonstrates the many birth options women are fortunate to have in Washington state and illustrates the continuum of care that’s available here. It also touches on issues in the heated dialogue about birth that is taking place in our country today.
Although most babies in the U.S. are born in hospitals and delivered by OBs, headlines declaring that home births are on the rise, the issuance of home-birth guidelines by the American Academy of Pediatrics and reports that more U.S. babies than ever are being delivered by midwives are causing women to rethink their options. A landmark national study published in the January/February 2013 issue of Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health has captured our attention, finding that birth centers provide top-notch care, could cut the number of unnecessary C-sections and save billions in health care costs. The study was conducted by independent researchers and included an analysis of outcomes from more than 15,000 women in 79 midwifery-led birth centers in 33 states from 2007 to 2010.
A report, recently reissued by Consumer Reports, called “What to Reject When You’re Expecting,” raises concerns about the number of births induced and the number of C-sections performed (one of every three babies born). It outlines 10 unnecessary procedures that you should consider avoiding during your pregnancy. John Santa M.D., director of Consumer Reports’ health ratings center said in his opening letter that this report “received the largest social media response of any health article in Consumer Reports history.”
Even before the news hit, Washington state was already introducing changes. Last year the Washington State Medical Association launched a statewide campaign called “Know Your Choices—Ask Your Doctor,” to spark conversations between patients and their doctors about the need for frequently ordered tests and procedures. Groups including the Puget Sound Health Alliance and the Washington State Hospital Association, support this initiative.
In Washington, prospective parents are demonstrating increasing preferences for more natural, patient- and family-centered births. In response, hospitals have been adding—more so in the past few years than ever before—new warm, comforting birth suites and including midwives as an option. At Swedish’s Ballard Birth Center, prospective mothers can choose an ob-gyn, family physician or midwife to deliver their baby. At Northwest Hospital & Medical Center’s Midwives Clinic, the tagline is “Your Birth, Your Way.” Overlake Hospital Medical Center in Bellevue has private birthing rooms with jetted tubs, birth balls and recliners—all geared to make the birth process more comfortable and less clinical. At EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, new babies room with their mothers. Valley Medical Center has recently added midwives. And at Group Health Cooperative—where most women see midwives rather than OBs, unless there are complications or health risks—members can choose to deliver in a hospital or at home.