Giving birth in a hospital or giving birth at home. Those are the two options mothers-to-be have in Ottawa. But later this year, a third option will be available when a new midwife-led birth centre opens on Walkley Road.
Jason Chen, Centretown News
Alexandra Thompson gave birth to her son at home two years ago.
While the third option will be too late for Alexandra Thompson, the 38-year-old soon-to-be mother of two, she welcomes the idea of a birth centre because a midwife provides a continuity of care that isn’t available in hospitals. She gave birth to her two-year-old son at home and is now expecting another child in March – also expected to be a home birth.
“I love working with a midwife. She is there during my pregnancy, through the birth and in the weeks after. It’s a very familiar face guiding you through everything.”
The Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre was announced on Jan. 24 by Health Minister Deb Matthews as part of the Ontario government’s Action Plan for Health Care.
“Giving women in Ottawa more options on where to receive maternity care makes sense. Women can seek the type of care that fits their needs, close to home in their own community,” said Matthews.
Ottawa midwife Genevieve Gagnon considers the opening of a birth centre a historical moment.
”All over the province, midwives have been visualizing a birth centre since midwifery became a regulated health profession in 1994. We are very excited.”
Midwives provide primary care for women considered to have low-risk pregnancies. They assist the mother in labour, birth and early post-natal care.
Aside from providing pregnant women with another option as to where they want to give birth, the government hopes that the birth centre will take some of the burden off hospitals.
“Having a baby is a leading cause for hospitalization of women and many of them don’t really need to be hospitalized,” Matthews said in an interview. “This new birth centre will provide high-quality care, but also better value for our health dollars by moving routine procedures from hospitals and into a specialized, not-for-profit clinic.”
Not wanting to be hospitalized is one of the major reasons why Thompson chose home births for both her first and second child.
“I connect hospitals to being sick and I’ve never been to a hospital for an illness or anything, so for me it is a very unfamiliar environment.”
Midwives will continue to serve clients who wish to give birth in a hospital, Gagnon says, but believes there are many advantages to giving birth in a birth centre. Women who chose a birth centre will be able to walk around, eat and drink as they please during labour, and choose how they want to give birth, she says.
“They are not limited. A birth centre includes options that you would not typically see in a hospital,” Gagnon says." One of the biggest attributes to the birth centre is that they provide big tubs for labour and birth. That’s a big no-no in hospitals, where women have to get out of the water to give birth
The centre will lease space at 226 Walkley Road in the Ottawa Business Park and is expected to open sometime in the summer.
According to provincial statistics, about 142,000 babies are born in Ontario every year and up to 22,000 are delivered by midwives. There are about 640 registered midwives in Ontario.