Moms who deliver at Birth Center of Denver have a totally natural labor and birth—they forgo pain relievers or epidurals, though they can opt for a small amount of nitrous oxide for relaxation (at a level lower than what’s used at dentists’ offices). “It doesn’t necessarily take away the pain but it makes you care less about it,” says Certified Nurse-Midwife Katy Kissler.
Moms do, however, have a variety of other options to ease the discomfort of labor. In the birthing suites, moms have an adjustable queen bed and an oversized tub where lying or squatting in warm water may help them relax. Or they can use a large exercise ball or a sling hanging from the ceiling to support their body (or belly) in whatever position they find most comfortable.
And they can give birth in the water. Kissler explains, “A lot of moms like to squat in the tub because the pelvis is really open when you squat and it allows a lot of space for the baby to come out.” The nurse-midwife reaches in and guides the baby to the surface. “They’re in water inside so it’s not a problem to be born into water. They’re not stimulated to start breathing until they come to the surface. It’s a really beautiful, gentle entry.”
Birth Center of Denver is owned by Saint Joseph Hospital and the midwives are Saint Joe’s employees. If a critical situation arises, an ambulance can come directly to the birth center to quickly transfer a mom or baby who needs hospital care. The nurse-midwives even run drills with the NICU (neo-natal intensive care unit) staff and the obstetricians at Saint Joseph to ensure a quick and smooth transfer, which includes transfer of electronic medical records. Kissler says most problems with labor and birth give warning signs early, so the nurse-midwives pay attention to those warning signs and take them seriously—and they get those moms to a higher level of care in the hospital.
Birth Center of Denver will open this summer and is serving moms with due dates in September or later, so no deliveries have happened yet. But Kissler believes hospital transfers would happen only rarely. The center will take only the most-low risk moms—those with no complications in pregnancy and no birth complications expected.
“We won’t take women who’ve had a caesarean section because there are too many risk factors—or women with hypertension, diabetes, twins. Women who have had long labors, painful labors, they can still come here and we can work with them.”
Education about a healthy pregnancy, natural labor and childbirth is a big component of the birth center’s services. Instead of the typical prenatal visits, women have prenatal groups where they get to know the other women in their group and the midwife and nurses that are facilitating the groups.
“The model of care is called ‘Centering Pregnancy™,’” says Kissler. Women take their own blood pressure and weight and they go individually to a bed in the corner to get their belly measured and to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. They have private appointments closer to birth or if any issues arise.
Moms only stay at the birth center for 4–12 hours after birth. Nurse-midwives or registered nurses make a home visit one or two days after the birth to do normal newborn screening, support moms and check on breast feeding. Birth center staff stay in touch by phone for the first few weeks and are available 24/7 for calls.
And the birth center will have groups for moms to build long-term relationships with other moms from their prenatal groups.
Birth Center of Denver partners with most major insurance companies including Kaiser and Medicaid. Natural birth at the birth center “is, in general, more cost effective since we’re very low tech and hands on,” says Kissler
Birth Center of Denver is located at 18th Ave. and Franklin St. For more information, call 303-812-2363 or visit sclhcolorado.org/birth-center.