A birthing center is a healthcare facility staffed by midwives, nurse-midwives, and/or obstetrician for women in labor. Coaches and doulas may assist these staff members. The responsibility of the doulas is to attend to the laboring mother to make the process of birth easier. The midwives monitor the well-being of the mother, the labor, and the condition of fetus at the time of birth (Hodnett and Downe 74). These centers may be located outside the hospital, and, as a result, the mother can be transferred to the main hospital for special attention. This implies that the birthing center should be strategically located to the main hospital. Currently, some hospitals are incorporating birthing centers in their facilities to facilitate high tech maternity care, as well as reduce handling costs.
Birth centers have been in existence for the past 35 years. The first center was established in in USA in 1975 in response to alternative care for laboring mothers (Harper 15). The Maternity Center Association in New York opened the first childbearing center that incorporated other health affairs. By 1979, 14 centers had established in 14 states of the United States for respond to the needs of the mothers. The centers were funded by international banks. Through the efforts of the United States, several other countries have adopted birth centers in their administration. For instance, Australia opened the first center in 2002 with financial assistance from National Maternity Action Plan, and the State and Territory Government (Avery 91).
In the United States, birth centers are open to the entire population since they offer free registration. Registered members benefit under Benefits of Membership. Such benefits include; sample Procedures and Policies Manual, a Birth Center Information Package, Birth Center Members Discount, as well free telephone consultation services. Registered members are required to pay annual dues of about $695 for birth centers with net revenue of $100,000 or less, and $955 for birth centers with net revenues of between $100,000 and $500,000 (Avery 89). The advantage of this membership is that a mother can decide when to join and when to withdraw the membership.
Birth centers are committed to provide the best medical care to the laboring mothers. In 2010, the Archives Association of British Columbia, AABC, developed new legislations to ensure that birth center becomes non-profit organizations. The legislation aimed at securing grants for the centers through such non-profit organizations like Federally Qualifies Health Center, FQHC (Harper 17). Currently, the AABC is working at national level alongside Women’s Health Act and Birth Centers. It is encouraging mothers to deliver in birth centers for different reasons. First, these centers are committed to promote delivery without administering pain-relieving medications. Another argument is that mothers feel more relaxed in a non-medical atmosphere of giving birth than in a medical setting. In addition, birth centers have ample of space for clinical attendants as well as family members. The mother would feel more confident when surrounded by her family members, and the care provided by the staff and equipment that aim at supporting a sustaining labor experience by use of coping strategies rather than medical pain-relief strategies (Berman 13). Besides, the laboring mother is not tied to the rules and regulations of the center since she can return home immediately after giving birth. This is advantageous since it is cost effective in the sense that medical bills are reduced. These centers are also strategically located to the target population; a factor that reduces travelling cost and the cumulative medical expenses.
Space Requirements for Birth Centers
The architectural designs of birth centers are suited for infinitely large number of people. This is explained by the fact that some laboring mothers may require special attention during birth. Some facilities such as radiography and x-ray services must be incorporate in the overall design. The guiding principles of a birth center are sensitivity, prevention, safety, cost effectiveness, and appropriate medical intervention (Hodnett and Downe 74). Unlike hospital, birth centers are not available in many communities in a given geographical region because of the cost of setting up such facilities. Additionally, they require certain machines and technologies that can only be found in urban areas.
The main factor that distinguishes birth centers from other medical facilities is space. The architectural design ensures that the atmosphere is homelike (Hodnett and Downe 74). This implies that the surrounding is natural with the least amount of technological designs. Homelike atmosphere implies that each mother has enough space for herself, for the baby, and for the visitors. Birth centers are not over-congested to create a free-atmosphere to promote easy birth and recovery of the mother. As a result, they delivery room should have enough space for the mother to walk. Just like a home, the center provides private rooms where the mother receives specialized attention from family and from the clinical attendants. This room should be large enough to provide toiletries and other sanitary facilities for laboring mothers. Above all, the room should be well lit by natural light. This can be achieved by use of glasses to ensure that natural light lights the room.
A birth center should also provide open space for recreational facilities for the laboring mother. Some of the entertainment options to be considered are ample space for music, foods, and drinks, and social rooms for friends and families. The designers should consider other facilities such as furniture, for example king-sized beds. The bed should be large enough for the father and mother and perhaps showers or birthing tubs for water births. The décor in the birth room and the surrounding must emphasize normality of the birth process (Kitzinger 56). Ample space is required to ensure that the mother can move or act freely during birth. It should facilitate such movements like walking, squatting, or any other posture that assist in labor. Obstetricians encourage active birth rather than the conventional birth in a hospital bed.
The location of the center must be located close to an established hospital. Research shows that about 15% of women in birth centers are transferred to hospitals for specialized medical attention. About 2% are transferred to hospitals mainly because such mothers may request anesthesia or the birth process may be slow. This is because these centers are not equipped with tech medical facilities like hospitals. Nearness to an established hospital is an important factor to consider in erecting a birth center. The designer should ensure that the infrastructure connecting the two medical facilities is all weather. It should have the capacity to be used at any time of the day and at all atmospheric conditions. This also means that the center must have access to fast transit facilities to link the center to the hospital.
Medical centers are highly sensitive. This implies that their location must be strategically considered to prevent environmental and social risks that can affect the conventional way of giving birth. This facility should be located away from industries (Berman 14). Many industries produce toxic fumes and gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other sulfurous gases that may affect the life of the mother and that of the infant. Additionally, there noise pollution is associated with industries. Noise may be disturbing for ailing mothers and the infants. These centers should not be located in environment prone to environmental risks such as sewage. Although, medical facilities are highly sterilized, contaminants from solid and liquid effluent can contaminate the facilities in these centers. Designers should consider the probable risks in a region because of the sensitive nature of the facility.
Above all, the center should be located in proximity with the population (Hodnett and Downe 74). Birth centers are located in remote places where mothers may lack finances to cater for medical bills in normal hospitals. They are relatively cheap and provide a homely atmosphere. Considering all these factors, they should be located in nearness to the affected population. Nevertheless, the designer must consider safety and prevention of the laboring mother since such places are prone to insecurity.
From the findings of this study, it is important to birth center’s architectural designers to consider the prevailing factors in a location before setting up the facility. Birth centers are highly sensitive to environmental risks, which can harm both the mother and the infant. With the increasing demand of birth centers in many countries, designer should consider the idea of adding high tech facilities to these centers to promote self-sufficiency. Mothers who require specialized medical attention have to be transferred to other hospitals. Adding such facilities would not only benefit the center, but also reduce medication costs to the mothers.
- Avery, Melissa. Supporting a Physiologic Approach to Pregnancy Birth. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2013. Print.
- Berman, Salee. The Birth Center. Approach to the Birth Experience. Washington, D.C: Damp Rabbit Publishers, 2011. Print.
- Harper, Barbara. Gentle Birth Choice. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions/Bear & Co., 2011. Print. Hodnett, Edward and Downe, Walsh. Alternative versus conventional institutional settings for birth. Cochrane database of systematic reviews.2012.
- Kitzinger, Sheila. Birth Your Way: Choosing Birth at Home or in a Birth Center. London: Fresh Heart Publishing Center, 2011. Print.