The Heart of the Valley Birth Center (HVBC), an independent new midwifery-based birth center which will serve Benton and Linn counties, is rooted in the belief that pregnancy and childbirth are healthy, normal life events for most women and babies. Midwives and staff will provide both prenatal and postpartum support, and HVBC will offer a full range of safe birthing options designed to provide continuous, supportive care and reduce medically unnecessary interventions. (Nationally, the C-section rate for women in birth centers is only 6 percent, compared to the general U.S. rate of 27 percent for low-risk women.)
Susan Heinz, Certified Nurse Midwife and president of the HVBC Board of Directors, said that the “outcry and interest in a [local] birth center has been overwhelming.” Over 500 people voiced their support in an online survey HVBC sent out last year.
Still, the center is very much in utero, so to speak. HVBC only recently gained non-profit status, a key first step. It’s now in the midst of an extensive capital campaign, which includes grant-writing, donor-wooing, and community events such as an upcoming woman’s retreat at Odd Fellows Hall.
Locating a site for the Center is proving to be a struggle, as a licensed birth center requires a lot that’s been zoned “commercial medical,” with sufficient reserved parking. State licensing is also an important step, Heinz said, as one of the biggest obstacles for women using birth centers is cost—most insurance companies, including Oregon Health Plan, require state licensing before they’ll insure out-of-hospital births. In the long run, birth centers save the U.S. health care system money, as medical payments for care are nearly 50 percent greater for women who have cesareans versus those who give birth vaginally.
But HVBC aims to be more than a place for women to give birth—it strives to be a place where families receive services and information during the child-bearing years and beyond. In that regard, HVBC is well underway: last October it hosted a free, bilingual doula training event in which it trained 14 new doulas. They offer free “MamaBaby” groups every week.
“Our vision is for Heart of the Valley to be a uniting ground, a place where both the homebirth and hospital birth communities can gather,” Heinz said.
by Nathaniel Brodie