For expecting moms who want an alternative to a hospital-based birth, there's a new option in the Triangle.
Baby+Company is opening a new boutique maternity center in Cary where certified nurse midwives will provide customized care plans, personalized counseling and clinical care. The Cary center, part of a new national chain of maternity centers, is a partnership with WakeMed Health & Hospitals and will be under the medical direction of Triangle Physicians for Women.
An open house is scheduled for 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday at the center, 226 Asheville Ave., which is across the street from WakeMed Cary Hospital and a short walk from the Waverly Place Shopping Center. Visitors can tour the center and talk with its team of professionals. Baby+Company is accepting expecting moms who are less than 28 weeks pregnant.
At the center, women can receive any number of services, including pre-conception, prenatal and postpartum care. Moms can labor and deliver their babies at the center under the care of certified nurse midwives. The center also will offer newborn care services.
It will all be offered in what's described as a luxurious, boutique hotel-like setting. Birthing suites will have large beds, plush linens, walk-in showers with room for two and deep soaking tubs for labor and birth. There also will be a full-service kitchen and multiple living spaces for family members to spend time during labor, according to a press release. The center will accept all major insurance plans.
Baby+Company Cary will double the number of birth centers in the Triangle. Until now, the Women's Birth & Wellness Center in Chapel Hill has been the primary alternative for moms seeking a birth outside a hospital.
Midwifery at Women's Health Alliance, with locations in Wake, Durham and Orange counties, provides midwifery services for new moms who deliver at Duke Regional Hospital. Triangle Physicians for Women, which is working with the new birth center, already offers midwifery services for moms delivering at WakeMed. Midwife services also are available at Duke Medicine and UNC Healthcare.
Births attended by certified nurse midwives made up less than 13 percent of the births in North Carolina in 2012, according to the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics. That year, just 6.5 percent of Wake's 12,000 live births were attended by a certified nurse midwife. In Durham County, that number jumped to 12 percent of the 4,300 births there. And in Chapel Hill, home to the region's original birth center, that number was 22 percent of the 1,300 births in 2012.
But Cara Osborne, a mom of two and founder of Baby+Company, said the rate is much higher in other countries where most moms don't head straight to the hospital as soon as they start feeling contractions. The Cary center will be able to serve between 350 to 400 births a year.
"Midwifery-led care in a birth center or in a midwife-led unit is very typical in Europe," said Osborne, a nurse midwife with a doctorate in public health from Harvard University. "In the [United Kingdom], the grand majority of babies are delivered by midwives. Physicians and obstericians are only at births when there are complications."
Osborne said maternity center births are not for everybody, including those with medical conditions that would require a hospital birth. She'd like Baby+Company and other centers like it to serve as an alternative for women who are looking for other options. At least a quarter of women who were part of a national survey called Listening to Mothers indicated that they would be interested in delivering their babies at a birth center, she said.
"The grand majority would be eligible for this kind of care," she said. "It’s really just making it available for the people who want it. It’s definitely not for everybody. Not everybody would want to choose it. It’s not medically appropriate for everybody."
If a laboring mom experiences complications or if her labor isn't progressing as it should at the center, she'd be sent across the street to WakeMed Cary where they could continue to receive services from a certified nurse midwife on staff.
In the majority of cases, most women who go to a birth center to deliver have their babies there. In 2013, of the more than 15,500 who went to a birth center to deliver a child, 84 percent of women who were admitted to a birth center gave birth there, according to the National Birth Center Study.
Baby+Company Cary is Osborne's second center. The first is in northwest Arkansas where Osborne lives. A third is scheduled to open in a Denver, Colo., suburb.
Osborne said the business is an extension of her own academic work. She's studied births here and around the world.
"I’ve always been really interested in different models in maternity care," she said. "I saw things could go just fine with absolutely no intervention and also the dangers of not having good care."
Maureen Darcey, director of midwifery services at the Chapel Hill birth center, said she's happy to see another birth center in the region. Her center delivers about 500 babies a year. The center is 20 years old and began as part of a Siler City birth center that opened in 1978.
The Chapel Hill center is different from Baby+Company as it provides services for girls and women at all stages. Some teens who were born at the center are now get their sports physicals there, for instance. Elderly women also get health services there. Darcey said the Chapel Hill center has a waiting list.
"We definitely want more birth centers in the area so more women can have more options," Darcey said.
Osborne hopes the opening of Baby+Company will help launch a bigger dialogue on the need for more birth centers. And she hopes the Cary center will service as a community center of sorts for all expecting moms. The center will offer classes and programs for expecting parents, including those who don't plan to give birth there.
"We hope the birth center will become a community resource for people," Osborne said. "We really want to be able to provide information and education for moms and new families as they sort of figure out this next stage of life."