Birth Centres

Birth Centres originated in the 1970s in response to consumer demand. Many women wanted to avoid routine medical intervention during their labours, so they lobbied for the establishment of birth centres with a relaxed, comfortable and homelike environment. Currently, birth centres are a popular option for women who aim for a natural, active birth, with water birth as an option.

Birth centres are designed to be a home away from home. A birth centre is either a separate unit located away from the labour ward or a freestanding unit not attached to a hospital. Birth centres encompass a philosophy that pregnancy and birth are normal, natural events in the life of a woman and her family. Small teams of midwives generally staff birth centres, providing continuity of care for women through pregnancy, birth and the early postnatal period. Pregnant women are able to get to know the midwives and be familiar with the midwife providing labour care. Partners, support people, siblings and other family members are encouraged to be involved. After the baby’s birth, some centres provide postnatal care from a few hours to a few days (each birth centre is different). Follow up is either provided at home by birth centre midwives, on a postnatal ward at the local hospital or by community midwives.

Generally, birth centres don’t have facilities for interventions such as continuous monitoring of the baby, epidurals, forceps/vacuum births or caesarean births. In the event of complications, a woman transfers to the labour ward of the nearest hospital. Birth centres usually accept women classified as having a low risk of complications. Most birth centres have a list of risk factors that excludes certain women from giving birth in the centre; the criteria vary betw