Spokane Midwives Birth Center

By Tine Reese

March 24, 2011

As Bloom Spokane works to educate our community about mother-friendly birth options, we encounter parents who are surprised to discover that Spokane has a freestanding birth center—an independently owned and operated (non-hospital affiliated) facility run by midwives who provide prenatal, childbirth and postnatal care, incorporating family-centered maternity care concepts and practices.

Spokane Midwives is the private practice of Washington State licensed midwives Beth Morrill and Linda Morgan located just north of downtown Spokane at 127 East Euclid Street. The birth center provides a comfortable, home-like environment where families attend their prenatal appointments and can choose to give birth. Spokane Midwives’ patients are also cared for by the two student midwives in training at the birth center—Terri Young and Amber Morrill assist in prenatal checkups and attend births with the midwives while preparing to become licensed midwives themselves.

Terri Young and Beth MorrillLinda Morgan, Spokane Midwives

Celebrating 10 Years

As Spokane Midwives prepares to celebrate it’s 10th anniversary at the Euclid Street location, I stopped by to talk to the midwives about what makes their practice unique in Spokane and their vision for providing family-centered maternity care to our community. Midwife Linda Morgan said, “We are unique because there isn’t another birth center in Spokane. We are the only partnership of multiple midwives attending out-of-hospital births which has some benefits. If two mothers are in labor at the same time, they are both attended by a midwife they know. It also prevents burn-out for the midwives.”

Spokane Midwives averages around 10 births per month and estimates that half of those babies are born at the birth center and half are born at home. The decision about where to give birth is a personal decision, unique to each of the families they serve. This philosophy of woman-centered care defines all aspects of their practice. The midwives recognize each woman’s unique needs, respect her autonomy and trust her body’s ability to give birth. They provide unbiased information to patients about their options so that parents can make informed choices about the care they wish to receive.

Spokane Midwives Birth CenterSpokane Midwives Birth Center

Why Choose A Midwife?

While I was visiting the birth center for this article, I had the chance to speak with some of the families who came in for their prenatal appointments. Curious as to why each of them chose out-of-hospital midwifery care, I asked how they came to be patients at Spokane Midwives. Isaac Cornelius said of his family, “We didn’t want to go to the hospital. We took Bradley Method classes and explored different midwifery options before making a decision.” Father of four, James Slaten said, “I like it because I’m not treated like a nobody—I’m an important part of this process. We just had an intuition that this was the right kind of care for our family.”

Spokane Midwives serves a diverse population of families across our community, from single teen moms to women in their forties having their twelfth baby. They accept Medicaid patients and are often sought out by women who want to have a natural birth. Student midwife Terri Young says, “I love the diversity of people we get to work with. They come from all walks of life, income levels and cultures.”

Spokane Midwives Birth CenterSpokane Midwives Birth Center

Taking the Leap of Faith

I asked the midwives what they would say to women considering a birth center or home birth. They emphasize that your best chance at a non-surgical birth is out of the hospital. Linda says, “If a woman wants to have a vaginal birth, she will have a very tough time in the hospital where intervention rates are extremely high.” Your choice of where to give birth determines the type of care providers you can have and will contribute, in a big way, to your actual birth experience. Midwife Beth Morrill adds, “Birth is such an important life event. Your birthing experience is something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.”

So what percentage of women are able to achieve an out-of-hospital birth? Spokane Midwives has a 22% hospital transport rate for first-time moms and a 4% transport rate for subsequent births. The midwives acknowledge that a woman’s first birth is typically the most difficult and when a laboring mother becomes exhausted, makes the choice to have an epidural or requires emergency medical care, they are transported to one of our local hospitals. The lower transport rate for subsequent births clearly demonstrates how prior births prepare women to understand the process and trust their bodies in later births.

Spokane Midwives Birth CenterSpokane Midwives Birth Center

Home Birth or Birth Center?

With the option of a home birth or use of the midwives’ birth center, I wondered why someone would choose one over the other. The choice of a home birth offers the ultimate in personalized care in the comfort of your own home. But not every home situation is a conducive environment for birth.

Some of the reasons families choose to give birth at the birth center include:

  • Their own comfort level with the environment
  • The large bathtub that can be used for a water birth.
  • The center’s close proximity to many hospitals which makes transport quick and easy if it becomes necessary

A few of the potential downsides to the birth center (as opposed to a home birth) might include:

  • Having to drive to the birth center during labor
  • State law mandates that patients must leave the birth center within 5 hours after giving birth, even in the middle of the night. If mother or baby requires care after 5 hours, patients must transfer to a hospital for that care.
  • Midwives are not allowed to attend VBAC, breech or twin births at the birth center, but can attend those births in patients’ homes.
  • Some insurance companies don’t cover the birth center “facility.” Alternately, some don’t cover home birth. This is definitely something every patient will want to confirm with their own insurance provider.

Looking to the Future

Spokane Midwives is a growing, thriving business that plans to continue serving our community in it’s own unique way for many years to come. Good thing too! Bloom Spokane is reaching an ever-larger audience of childbearing women in our region and educating them about the value of mother-friendly, evidence-based maternity care. Spokane will NEED more midwives and out-of-hospital birth options to meet the demands of patients who are seeking this kind of personalized care.

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