Aurora Birth Center, Oregon; Thanks to Susie Corcoran, CNM, MS

According to a study conducted by the American Association of Birth Centers and published in the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health (Jan-Feb 2013), increasing the number of women who choose birth centers to have their babies would significantly decrease the number of cesarean sections and save “billions” in healthcare dollars.


The study followed 15,574 births; a previous study conducted by Judith Rooks et al in 1989 came up with similar conclusions about the safety, cost-effectiveness, and satisfaction of birth-center births.  At the time of the earlier study, the overall cesarean rate was 15%, whilst in birth centers it was 4%; in today’s study, the birth-center rate is 6% whilst the overall rate has skyrocketed to over 35%.  To read more about this study, go to http://www.birthcenters.org/research where there is a detailed discussion of the study and of birth centers by Rebecca Dekker, PhD, RN, ARPN.

Community of Hope Birth Center, Wash., DC

Another interesting study compared outcomes for 872 low-income women who chose to deliver their babies at a birthing center with a certified nurse-midwife.  “These women had the same or better birthing experience as women under traditional care with a hospital-based obstetrician, according to a May 2013 study in Health Services Research,” reported in Science Daily.  The authors of the study found that “women who received birth center care, when compared to women under conventional care, were less likely to: have a Cesarean section (19.7 vs. 29.4 percent), to have a delivery with the aid of forceps or vacuum extraction (2.1 vs. 4.4 percent), and to have a preterm delivery (7.9 vs. 11 percent). Women at the birth center were also more likely to deliver on a weekend (28.6 vs. 23.9 percent). The authors noted that these statistics suggest birth centers and midwives offer care that interferes less with the birthing process overall.”  This study demonstrates that lower socio-economic status should not be a factor in determining where a woman should give birth.  The authors conclude that “for women without medical complications who are able to be served in either setting, our findings suggest that midwife-directed prenatal and labor care results in equal or improved maternal and infant outcomes.”

Women who choose birth centers must be “low-risk,” healthy, with no or minimal problems during pregnancy. They tend to view pregnancy and birth as natural, physiological processes rather than medical problems.  The American College of Nurse-Midwives is conducting an educational campaign to educate more women about the advantages of birth-center and midwifery birth.  To read more about their campaign, “Our Moment of Truth,” go to http://www.midwife.org/NBCSII.  To read Time Magazine’s “Family Matters” article on the study, go to

The American Association of Birth Centers, a multi-disciplinary membership organization comprised of individuals and organizations who support the birth center concept, offers information and training for individuals interested in starting a birth center, accredits birth centers, and helps parents to decide if a birth center is right for them.  It describes a birth center as a “nurturing place that gives you a caring, warm, and home-like environment where you are supported and respected as well as safe and secure. You will have a private room for giving birth where you can:

  • Make yourself comfortable.
  • Wear your own clothing.
  • Eat when you feel hungry.
  • Soak in a tub or have a water birth.

Birth centers welcome your children, your parents, and your friends so you can decide who will be with you or near you as you give birth.

Birth centers give you continuing support; holistic pain management; and information on infant care, breastfeeding, parenting, and family planning.”

The AABC website also includes an easy-to-use birth center locator on the parents’ page.  Find an accredited birth center in your community.


Benatar S, Bowen Garrett A, Howell E and Palmer A (2013).  Midwifery Care at a Freestanding Birth Center: A Safe and Effective Alternative to Conventional Maternity Care.  Health Services Research 48(5).  Abstract available at http://www.hsr.org/hsr/abstract.jsp?aid=48416455762

Rooks JP, Weatherby NL, Ernst EK, et al. Outcomes of care in birth centers. The national birth center study. The New England Journal of Medicine. 1989;321:1804-1811. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2687692.

Stapleton SR, Osborne SD, Illuzzi J (2013).  Outcomes of Care in Birth Centers: Demonstration of a Durable Model.  J Midwifery and Women’s Health 2013;58-3-14.