Earlier this year, Heartland Doulas had the privilege of being invited to an after-hours meeting to discuss the Birth Center of Bloomington-Normal.

As you may know, free-standing birth centers (meaning not physically attached to a hospital) were illegal in Illinois until just a few years ago, when a law passed that provided for a pilot program of 10 birth centers in IL. The first of those opened in 2014 in Oak Park, and in October 2016 the Birth Center of Bloomington-Normal officially opened its doors as the second.

Bloomington-Normal Birthing Center

Mothers often choose birth centers for their high rates of unmedicated vaginal birth, low rates of labor interventions, family-centered model of care, and comfortable home-like environment. With the addition of the new birth center, birthing mothers will now have more options to birth where they feel the most comfortable.

Here are a few FAQs about the Birth Center of Bloomington-Normal:

Q: Is it safe to birth outside of a hospital?
A: The National Birth Center Study II in 2013 included over 15,000 people in 79 midwife-led birth centers in the U.S. and found that birth centers are as safe as hospital environments for low-risk birthing mothers. Additionally, 94% of the mothers in the study had a vaginal birth and less than 2% required an urgent transfer to the hospital. More information about the study can be found here.

Q: Can I use my doctor at the birth center?
A: The Birth Center is staffed by Certified Nurse Midwives and Registered Nurses. All of your prenatal care would take place with the midwives and nurses at the birth center, and your birth will be attended by their staff.

Q: Will doulas be provided?
A: No. The Birth Center welcomes their clients to privately hire any doulas of their choosing. We at Heartland Doulas are looking forward to being a part of your trusted team at the Birth Center!

Q: What options are available for pain management?
A: While the birth center does not have epidural and narcotics available for pain, there are many options available for pain management. Freedom of movement, eating and drinking, massage, aromatherapy that you bring, continuous support by a privately-hired doula of your choosing, and hydrotherapy in the birthing tubs are some of the options you may choose.

Q: Can I birth in the water?
A: YES! The birth center will support water birth in their permanent, freestanding birthing tubs.

Q: Do I HAVE to birth in the water?
A: NO! The option is available to labor in the water but get out for birth, to labor on “dry land” but get in the tub for birth, or not to use the tub at all.

Q: Who can use the birth center?
A: Low-risk mothers who are committed to eating a healthy diet, exercising appropriately, educating themselves personally with research, and attending childbirth preparation classes.

Q: What conditions might exclude me from using the birth center?
A: High blood pressure prior to pregnancy, blood clotting disorders, placenta previa, uncontrolled chronic medical diseases, HIV/Syphillis/Hep B/Hep C, medication-dependent diabetes, twins, incompetent cervix, and obesity greater than 30 (first-time mother) or 35 (previous vaginal birth) are identified by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers as excluding a mother from using a freestanding birth center. Additionally, the Birth Center of Bloomington-Normal will not be accepting VBACs (at least in the beginning). The staff will screen each client individually for potential risk factors. Women who are pregnant for the first time and are over the age of 40 are not considered low-risk and exceptions would be at the discretion of the medical director. The Birthing Center also requires care to be established with them prior to 32 weeks; exceptions in transferring your care later in the 3rd trimester will be at the sole discretion of the medical director.

Q: How many people can be present?
A: As many as you want! You can labor by yourself, your family can wait in the beautiful family waiting room (equipped with a full kitchen), or you can pack them all in the birthing room with you!

Q: What about my children?
A: Your children can also be present in the birthing room! The birth center will require you to bring one additional caretaker for all children under 14, and the children and their support persons will need to attend a Sibling Preparation Class at the Birth Center during your pregnancy that will prepare them for what they can expect to see and hear from their mother during labor.

Q: How long will I stay at the Birth Center after birth? 
A: You will be on your way home within 6-8 hours after your birth. If you or your baby requires additional monitoring and care past 12 hours, you will be transferred to the hospital for continuation of care. Someone from your care team will check on you in your home 24-48 hours after your birth, and your normal 6-week follow-up will be at the Birth Center.

Q: Will there be lactation on staff?
A: At this time there are not plans to keep lactation consultants on staff. For any issues that your midwife, nurse, or doula cannot help with, you may choose to visit local lactation consultants at the hospitals or have a private consultant visit you in the Birthing Center or your home.

Q: Will they take my insurance?
A: Most likely! The Birth Center of Bloomington-Normal is working to become in-network with as many of the area insurers as possible, including the medical card. They also plan to accept self-paying patients and medical cost-sharing plans such as Samaritan.

You can follow the progress of the birthing center at www.birthcenterbn.com and on their facebook page Birth Center of Bloomington Normal.


About Kate Herzel

Kate Herzel is the co-owner of Heartland Doulas alongside Stacy Ash, and together with their combined 20 years of experience and 7 doulas, they help people have really amazing birth and postpartum experiences. In her spare time, Kate enjoys cooking with her kids, brewing beer with her husband, and entertaining for her friends.