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Two great falls midwives give expectant mothers a personal and safe option away from hospitals.

While pregnant with her third son, Jennie Shepherd decided she wanted to have a midwife delivery.

Her older sons, age 7 years and 14 months, were born in hospitals.

"This was a healthy pregnancy, and I wanted to experience it," Shepherd said.

She signed up at the brand new Central Montana Birth Center, 910 1st Ave. N., and her son, Everett Monroe Shepherd, was born there May 13, weighing in at eight pounds, 14 ounces.

Delivery was fast and the labor was easier than she had experienced with her first two babies. "Of course, he was number three, and I was more experienced, more comfortable," she said.

Little Everett was born in a room with a homey queen-size bed, deluxe private bath and a comfortable foldout bed for Daddy, Chris Shepherd. "And lots and lots of personal attention," Mommy said.

No doctors

"This isn't a hospital," said Elaine Becker, who is partners with Ann Doll in Central Montana Birth Center. Both are certified nurse midwives. They started the center to give women a choice, Becker said.

"And it's an important choice to have," she said. "Healthy moms, healthy babies is what we're all about."

There's no anesthesia at the birth center. No epidurals. No surgery either, so that mean's no cesarean sections. That's because there are no doctors, although doctor and hospital backups are available if needed, Becker said.

Pain management is available, too.

Patients can relax in a warm tub, Becker said. "Studies show that water therapy is a significant relief for women in labor. "You can get up and move around, too. That's a lot better than lying in a bed attached to a monitor," she said.

Some intravenous medications can be administered, as well as massage therapy and accupressure. For relief of back labor pains, options include injections of sterile water papules or electrical nerve stimulation, the kind frequently used by physical therapists.

"This is normal birth. The mom delivers; we only assist," Becker said. "C-sections are getting out of hand, accounting for 28 percent of births these days. You can't tell me that one of every four women needs a C-section."

Backup plans

Thorough prenatal care is the key, Becker and Doll said.

"We thoroughly screen at every prenatal visit. If anything abnormal shows up, we refer patients to physicians long before the birth," said Becker, who has delivered more than 1,000 babies. "Twins or breach position aren't surprises in these days of excellent prenatal care."

Nationally, less than 5 percent of birth center patients are transferred to hospitals. However, Central Montana Birth Center is prepared to do that, if necessary. Arrangements are made with physicians with Great Falls Obstetrical and Gynecological Associates and Benefis Healthcare.

"Continuity of care at a birth center is another plus," Doll said.

At clinics, a woman may see several different doctors in the course of a pregnancy, Doll said. "Her baby might be delivered by an on-call doctor she has never seen," Doll said.

Dealing with shift changes at the hospital was something that bothered Shepherd during previous births, she said.

Another advantage of a birth center is other family members can be involved in the process here too, Doll said. "Dad can sleep over. It makes a smooth transition for families."

In July, the center will begin offering parent education classes on prenatal, birth and breast-feeding topics.

Labor of love

In the absence of state licensing and regulation, the center conforms to standards of the American Association of Birth Centers, Becker said. National accreditation is pending.

Montana has another new birth center too, in Missoula.

The Great Falls midwives expect to deliver as many as 10 babies a month at the center, and that's not all.

The center houses three businesses in one.

In addition to the birth center, the women have their own practices. Becker's Central Montana Women's Healthcare and Doll's Midwifery Services. Both offer gynecological care for prenatal to postmenopausal women.

As certified nurse practitioners, they believe that nurses make a big difference in health care. They said they chose their specialties because they understand women's health needs.

Take menopause, for instance.

"It's a frustrating time, and midwives know it. We can help women through the ups and downs it brings," Becker said.

Doll, a Glendive native, said people often ask her why she didn't become a doctor instead of spending so many years in school to become a midwife.

"I tell them nursing is a whole different philosophy. It's the hands-on care that I want to give," she said.

Reprinted with permission Great Falls Tribune
COPYRIGHT 2006 Montana Nurses Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Nurses in the News
Publication:The Pulse
Article Type:Reprint
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2006
Words:760
Previous Article:Nurses speak out: what do patients really need?
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