By Libby Ellis
Monday December 8, 2008
When Jan Ferguson, RN, was pregnant 21 years ago, she was one of the first organizers of a conference to drum up support to allow freestanding birth centers to open in Illinois.
She had hoped to deliver her own baby in a birth center; however, that child has now turned 20, and Ferguson, a certified nurse midwife (CNM) with Eire Family Health Center in Chicago, has yet to see such a center open in the state. But with legislation passed, her own children might be able to realize her dream.
After eight unsuccessful attempts, legislation, known in birth center circles as Public Act 095-0445, passed in August 2007 allowing a pilot program to establish 10 freestanding birth centers in the state.
From the outside, freestanding birth centers often look more like homes than clinics and provide an option between hospital and home birth for low-risk women. Birth centers are not necessarily connected to a hospital or other medical facility and offer a model of care based on midwifery: natural delivery without intrusive technology in a home-like atmosphere.
Birth center patients tend to have an ongoing relationship with the center and with their caregivers, and receive prenatal care and education in the same familiar environment.
There are a number of advantages to birth centers says Gayle Reidmann, CNM, MS, president of West Suburban Midwife Associates in Oak Park, Ill.
"Birth centers can provide access to underserved populations. Particularly downstate, there are not enough people to deliver babies, and women have to drive two hours to get to a hospital," says Reidmann, also chair of the Illinois Birth Center Task Force. "Additionally, delivering in a birth center costs one-third to one-half less than delivering in a hospital, and in today's economy with so many people without health insurance [though many insurance providers cover birth center deliveries], that's a big deal in any geographic area."
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Colette's comments: The article goes on to discuss the rules process. Let's hope they pass reasonable rules that will facilitate quick access to free-standing birth centers!