Consider a birthing centre for your baby's delivery

By Gabriela Perdomo on June 04, 2014

Melanie Lapointe didn’t want to give birth to her first child in a hospital, but the thought of having her baby in her small condo with little privacy from her neighbours made her shiver. Luckily, her February due date coincided with the opening of the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre, and Melanie was able to have her baby girl in a homey environment. “It was even better than I expected,” she says. “The atmosphere was so relaxing, I think it helped the labour.”

Melanie is among dozens of women who have had their babies at two birth centres that opened recently in Ottawa and Toronto. Both offer women with low-risk pregnancies who are under the care of a midwife the option to deliver their babies in facilities equipped for home-like births.

Both centres were designed to provide a “non-institutional” environment for births, says Wendy Grimshaw, executive director at the Ottawa facility. In fact, the birthing rooms look more like fancy hotel rooms. The large suites are fully equipped with a fireplace, comfortable furniture, luxury bedding, and large birthing tubs. Women control the heating and lighting, as well as who is able to come in and out of the room.

Because birth centres are fully operated by midwives, labouring women don’t have access to hospital-based interventions such as epidurals or narcotic pain killers. However, pain management tools such as birthing balls, stools and suspended slings are provided, as well as some procedures like water injections and nitrous oxide.

Melanie felt empowered by her choice to have her baby at the Ottawa birth centre because it provided the home-like and unmedicated birth that she wanted. However, a birth like hers is not for everyone. It’s up to the mom to- be to choose a setting where she feels completely comfortable, and decide what she thinks is best for her and her baby.

Things to Consider:

  • Birth centres admit patients on a first-come, first-served basis. Patients are only admitted if they are in active labour. This means that you and your midwife should have a backup plan, in case the birth centre is full when you are ready to give birth.
  • Birth centres are led by midwives only. There are no nurses or doctors on site. Narcotic pain killers and epidurals are not available. However, you can request to be transferred to a hospital if you wish to receive medical pain relief.
  • The experience at a birth centre compares more accurately to a home birth than to a hospital birth. Wendy Grimshaw, executive director at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre, says, “It is more like a home birth in that there is no more clinical intervention than in a home birth.” Both the Ottawa and the Toronto centres have emergency protocols in place if a patient needs to be transferred to a hospital.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, June/July 2014.

By Gabriela Perdomo| June 04, 2014

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