North Shore Birth Center

Beverly Hospital, where our daughter Catherine was born, offers a Birth Center as one of its services. It is offered for women with low-risk pregnancies who want a comfortable environment to pursue a natural and unmedicated childbirth.

The management of Beverly Hospital has brought a proposal to the hospital’s Board of Trustees to stop allowing births at the Birth Center, apparently due to a sharp increase in malpractice insurance premiums. Today, the Board decided to postpone taking a vote on the issue, thanks in large part to supporters of the Campaign to Save the North Shore Birth Center. The Campaign has organized letter-writing campaigns, sent emails to board members, and gathered together a group of supporters to rally outside the hospital’s grounds today just as the Board was to meet this morning.

Rebecca and I support what the Birth Center does, even though Catherine wasn’t born there and our next child won’t be born there. So I wanted to explain why we support them. Natural childbirth is the practice of a woman going through labor and delivery of a baby without the aid of medications for pain relief, speeding up labor, etc. A natural childbirth can be had anywhere: Rebecca gave birth to Catherine without the aid of medication right in a normal labor and delivery room at Beverly Hospital. Other moms have natural births right at home, or in places like the North Shore Birth Center.

One might ask why the Birth Center needs to exist when a natural childbirth, like ours, can take place at a hospital. One advantage of the Birth Center is that it’s specifically geared towards natural childbirth. In a regular labor and delivery ward, all of the options are available to you, and even if you go in with the intent to do things naturally, it is very easy to make the quick decision to switch to medication. In the Birth Center, those options aren’t readily available – you’d have to be moved over to the hospital to receive any medication. So if you’re completely intent on a natural childbirth and don’t want to bother with the possible distractions of labor and delivery in a medical setting like a hospital, the Birth Center may be for you.

As I mentioned, we were able to have a natural childbirth right in the hospital, thanks to having written up and distributed a birth plan, having some great and supportive nurses, and lots and lots of personal determination. We’re thankful that we were at the hospital to give birth, because Catherine had some complications after she was born and needed immediate attention. Had she given been born at the Birth Center, the time it took to transfer her to the hospital could have led to even greater complications. As it was, they were able to rush her up to the hospital’s special care nursery right away, and then down to Brigham and Women’s Hosptial in Boston. However, the vast majority of births occur without these sorts of complications, and the Birth Center is readily able to handle them.

We have friends who’ve used the Birth Center, and we know that many other people want to have it as an option. It’s been a great option for women for nearly 30 years, is one of only two in our state, and it would truly be sad if the hospital removed this option purely because of a business decision. I’m hopeful that the delay in voting will give the Board time to discuss the issue and give supporters time to make their cases.

If you’re interested in learning more, head over to the site for the Campaign to Save the North Shore Birth Center.

Update: For reference, here is the recently-released official statement from the hospital’s Board of Trustees:

OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM BEVERLY HOSPITAL (November 18, 2008): The Board of Trustees takes its responsibilities to this organization and to the community very seriously. Consistent with other birth centers around the nation, the North Shore Birth Center is experiencing a significant rise in the cost of malpractice insurance premiums. The Board of Trustees is diligently weighing the impact that the closure of the Birth Center would have on the community; the level of community interest in its continued operation has not gone unnoticed. The Board intends to leave the Birth Center services unchanged while it continues to examine and discuss this

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