When Alexis Beard gives birth to her firstborn next month, she doesn’t plan to do so at a hospital.
“Birth is not a medical experience,” said Beard, an Evans resident, who will give birth at the Covenant Birth Center in Columbia with only her husband and her midwife at her side.
She sees birth as a natural process that should be allowed to take its own course with minimal medical interventions. If complications should occur, the birth center is located near a hospital.
“I want to have a water birth. One of the most important things to me is the initial skin to skin contact after birth. It will help form a strong bond and trust,” Beard said.
She is among a growing number of women nationally who are using midwives and birthing centers, and in some cases deciding to have their children at home.
According to the American College of Nurse-Midwives, the number of certified nurse-midwives attending births has risen nearly every year since 1989, the first year that those statistics were made available.
Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Centers for Health Statistics reports that after a 14-year decline, the number of home births in the U.S. increased 29 percent from 2004 to 2009.
The CDC study, published in January, showed the states with the most home births were in the Northwest, with the Southeast having the fewest home births.
Courtney Gustin is the only certified nurse-midwife at Medical College of Georgia Hospital and Clinics, and has been there for about two years.
She does not perform in-home services or attend home births.
“When I was pregnant with my first child, I had a midwife, and I thought it would be the perfect job,” said Gustin, a former Signal Corps officer, who was in the Army during her first pregnancy.
The mother of four, Gustin used a midwife during each pregnancy and birth. Two of her children were born in a hospital, and two were born at home.
To become a certified nurse-midwife, Gustin completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing and passed a national board certification.
Because of her own experience, Gustin said she feels she can better relate to her patients. She sees about 70 to 80 patients a week.
Women who use midwives typically have low-risk pregnancies. Should complications arise and intervention such as a cesarean section is required the patient will see a physician.
Jamie Wynn had seen Gustin throughout her pregnancy. Her birth experience wasn’t what she’d planned, she said.
An ultrasound revealed her baby, Leland, weighed more than 10 pounds more than a week before his Dec. 11 due date. Concerns about his size – particularly the width of his shoulders – necessitated a cesarean delivery for Wynn.
Leland was born Dec. 4 weighing 10 pounds, 14 ounces.
Andrea McPherson is another area mom whose first birth didn’t go as she had intended.
“I discussed having natural childbirth with my doctor” during her first pregnancy, she said. “But there were a cascade of interventions. The minute they break your water they put you on a clock.”
With her second child, she used a midwife, but she gave birth in a hospital.
“The third time I decided to have a home birth,” said McPherson, whose children are 8, 5 and 1.
According to the CDC’s statistics, home births are most common among white, non-Hispanic women. One in 90 births to this population was a home birth in 2009.
Statistics show home birth is most common among women with other children.
Gustin said she finds women who use midwives have done their homework.
“They’ve done a lot of research and have a lot of information to support them,” she said.
Beard said she began her research long before she became pregnant and was influenced in her decision by her mother.
“My mother had natural childbirth and breast fed me for two and a half years,” she said.
Beard said she believes she is doing the right thing for her and her baby.