Premier says two birth centres will create ‘new option for our moms’

TheStar.com – living/article
Published March 20, 2012.   Andrea Gordon, Family Issues Reporter

Ontario will invest in two pilot birth centres, giving women a new choice in where they deliver their babies, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced Tuesday.

Currently, mothers in the province can have their babies in hospitals or at home with a midwife. Birth centres would provide a third choice for women who don’t want a hospital birth but aren’t comfortable delivering at home.

“We think it’s important to create a new option for our moms,” McGuinty told a news conference at Ryerson University, which runs one of Ontario’s three midwifery degree programs.

• MORE: Ontario to fund two birth centres

He said the decision to invest $6 million in the pilot centres, which will be run by midwives and promote natural childbirth in a community setting, “marks the beginning of an important evolution in how we deliver babies in Ontario.”

The pilots, expected to be up and running within a year, will be evaluated for potential cost savings and quality of care and will lay the foundation for future birth centres throughout the province.

One of the sites is likely to be in Toronto, though locations have not been decided and will be chosen in the next few months based on proposals from midwifery practices across Ontario. All are eager to have a birth centre in their community.

Birth centres currently operate in Quebec, the United States and Britain and last fall Manitoba opened its first one in Winnipeg.

Midwives at the centres will care for mothers from conception through to six weeks post-partum and serve as community hubs for prenatal education, breastfeeding and parenting support.

The 550-member Association of Ontario Midwives, which has been lobbying hard for birth centres for the past year, had hoped for five pilots. But president Katrina Kilroy called the announcement “a great start” that will help ease the address the demand for midwifery service, reduce health care costs and boost the rates of natural childbirth.

Currently, four out of every 10 Ontario women who want a midwife can’t get one, largely because midwives are restricted in the number of hospital births they can attend.

Birth centres are expected to help reduce the high number of caesarean births, which account for more than one in four Ontario deliveries. They would be located close to hospitals in case a mother needs to be transferred for medical care and would not offer medical interventions like epidurals or inductions.

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