In the previous blog post, Kitsap Birth Options – Hospitals, we explored the local options for families who plan to give birth in the hospital.
In this post, we will explore the option of a freestanding birth center birth experience. There are several birth centers serving Kitsap County families, but only one that resides within our community. You may choose from the Salmonberry Birth Center, located in Poulsbo and just a few minutes away from Harrison Memorial Hospital, or in Tacoma, The Birthing Inn, just blocks away from St. Joseph Medical Center. For this post, we’ll talk about our homegrown birth center, Salmonberry.
Birth Center Options
Both of these beautiful birth centers offer large tubs in which you can find pain relief during your labors, and go on to have waterbirths, should you chose to do so. Birth centers do not offer medical pain relief (narcotics, epidural, etc.) but there is soon to be nitrous oxide (laughing gas) offered at Salmonberry, which has shown a lot of success, safety and the preference of many mothers, in other communities where this is offered. Salmonberry will be the first venue in Kitsap county offering this service, starting December 1!
General Birth Experience
During your labor and birth at a birth center, your midwife will strategize with you on when to arrive at the center. Unlike hospitals which generally encourage you to arrive somewhat early so that you can be assessed, and then sent home if needed, your midwives will stay in close contact with you during early labor, so that you will arrive in active labor. You’re encouraged to spend early labor at home where you are more comfortable and can eat, sleep, toilet, have visitors, and pass the time that can often be quite lengthy, and then come to the birth center when things are more serious.
You are encouraged to move throughout your labor, or rest in the large bed in your private room. There is a large jacuzzi tub that may accommodate both you and your partner, and you may bring food and eat freely throughout your labor to keep your stamina up. The midwives will monitor your well-being by checking your vitals, tracking your labor progress, and listening to your baby’s heart rate frequently through the use of dopplers. You can push your baby out in the position you prefer, whether on the bed, or in the tub.
You will stay after the birth for up to six hours or so, and then will be released home with your baby. The midwives will follow up with you when your baby is 24 hours old, and four days old, at your home. Your baby will be discharged to the pediatrician you’ve chosen at that time, and then will see your midwives for the last visits at 3 and 6 weeks, at which time your care with their team will be closed out. Salmonberry midwives will perform the metabolic screening, hearing tests and other newborn screens during your care with them.
At Salmonberry, your birth will be attended by one of the 3 midwives in the practice, a birth assistant, a student, and whomever you bring for your support team. While this might seem like a lot of people, the midwives are sensitive to give you, your partner, doula, and anyone else with you, space to create the birth environment you desire, to move freely, and be supported by the people closest to you, whilst watching over the progress of labor and safety of you and your baby. In an emergency, all hands are needed in order to manage a complication or work with providers at the hospital for transfer of care.
Should you transfer to the hospital, your midwife and student midwife will accompany you along with your birth team, if they are available, and you desire it. Depending on the circumstances, they may continue the postpartum care format outlined above after you are discharged from the hospital and depending on your care needs at that time.
While transfers are uncommon, most often, clients transfer from the birth center to the hospital for pain relief and for stalled labor. In other words, in need of support that the birth center can not provide, but not necessarily for emergencies. In emergencies, the midwives are very skilled at stabilizing both mother and baby until they can be transported to the hospital for more advanced care.
Choosing a midwife for your birth center birth
The state of Washington licenses midwives as clinical providers who can care for you throughout the course of your pregnancy, birth and postpartum period. Midwives bring life-saving drugs and tools to every birth they attend, whether at home or in the birth center. They can manage postpartum bleeding, resuscitate a newborn who is having trouble breathing, and more, keeping mother and baby stable until a transfer is made to the hospital for more advanced care. It’s a great system that works well for families who experience an unexpected complication, to ensure safety.
Birth centers are operated generally, by midwives. Washington state has either certified-nurse midwives, or licensed midwives. The pathways to licensure for each of these are different, and as a result, there are some differences in the ways each kind of midwife can practice in our state, but both types of midwives have demonstrated their skills and abilities to ensure the safety of both mother and baby through the pregnancy, birth and postpartum.
Salmonberry birth center has their own midwifery team, so you will work with possibly, all of the midwives in the in-house practice, and the midwife on call when you go into labor will attend your birth. Washington law prohibits birth centers from accepting patients who have had previous uterine surgery, so for clients exploring their VBAC options, unfortunately, a birth center would not be an option for you.
If you desire an unmedicated birth, consider exploring the option to birth in a freestanding birth center or at home. Both are safe options for low-risk pregnant people, and the birth centers that serve local families are beautiful venues in which to have a baby. We recommend that even if you aren’t considering birthing outside the hospital for this birth, make an “informed no” by getting your questions answered, and then deciding with knowledge.
Next we’ll be exploring the option of homebirth in Kitsap County. Stay tuned!