What is a Birthing Center?

Birthing centers differ significantly from hospital maternity wards. A birthing center is a facility staffed by midwives, not medical doctors. Birthing centers are far more casual and low tech than hospitals and may resemble a comfortable room in a home. Despite the hype and beauty of a birthing center, they pose significant potential risks for the mother and baby.

Risks of Birthing Centers

It is essential to note that birthing centers should provide services only to those pregnant women who are healthy and low risk. Unfortunately, complications can and do arise even under the best of circumstances. In a birthing center, if a complication occurs, medical treatment cannot be performed onsite and must be referred to a hospital for a medical doctor. The delay in treatment may result in harm or even death to the mother and/or baby and is obviously extremely risky.

Qualifications: Medical Doctor vs. Midwife

A medical doctor’s education, training and skills vastly exceed those of a midwife’s. Hospitals employ and utilize the services and skills of certified, licensed MD’s and those with OB-GYN specialties. Birthing centers, on the other hand, are staffed by midwives, not medical doctors. By comparison, midwives are significantly limited in their scope and abilities and can provide only primary healthcare to healthy pregnant women.

What are the Differences Between a Medical Doctor and a Midwife?

Obstetricians are medical doctors who care for women throughout their pregnancies. Gynecologists are medical doctors who specialize in women’s reproductive health issues. The OB-GYN is a specialist trained in both gynecology and obstetrics.

An OB-GYN’s education is extremely demanding and requires a four year college degree, four years of medical school, a one year or longer internship, a four year residency and often a three year specialization.

While an OB-GYN’s qualifications and education are consistent and at the highest level, some midwives are not highly trained; indeed, some have only a high school education. Training, education and experience vary greatly.

According to the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council, there are two primary categories of midwives in the United States, the nurse midwife and the direct entry midwife. The nurse midwife is trained in nursing and midwifery, while the direct entry midwife is trained only as a midwife. According to the Council, anyone may call herself a midwife. Training among direct-level midwives varies considerably. Some have received formal training in academic settings and may have a bachelor or master’s degree. Others do not have any college education at all and have been trained in workshops or apprenticeships. Some are even self-taught.

Even the Certified Professional Midwife does not require a college degree. The Council warns that it is up to the potential patient to find out whether the midwife is qualified and experienced. Additionally, some midwives and birthing centers are not insured. It is the consumer’s responsibility to ascertain this information.

An OB-GYN can perform all childbirth-related surgical procedures, including emergency care, and of course, cesareans. It is essential to note that a midwife cannot perform cesareans or attend to emergency situations or complications and by law must refer complications to a physician. It is also significant to note that some studies have concluded that infant mortality rates are higher at birth centers than at hospitals.

Michels & Lew, California’s Premier Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Law Firm

Michels & Lew provides zealous representation to clients who were harmed in birthing centers, hospitals and medical facilities. If you or your newborn experienced any injuries, you may be entitled to compensation. There are no legal fees unless your case is accepted and favorably resolved. Contact our team of legal and medical professionals at 310-444-1200.