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Nurse Midwifery and Birth Center FAQ

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Do the nurse-midwives only attend births in a Birth Center?

No, the UC San Diego Health nurse-midwives attend births in both Birth Centers and our traditional Labor & Delivery suites.

Does the nurse-midwife I see for my prenatal care always attend my birth?

There is always a nurse-midwife available in the hospital at Jacobs Medical Center. This may or may not be the nurse-midwife you have been seeing for your prenatal care. All of the nurse-midwives provide excellent care with the same philosophy. 

Can I give birth in a Birth Center if I've had a C-section in the past and am attempting a VBAC delivery?

No, due to the increased monitoring required to ensure the health of you and your baby, it's safest for you to give birth in Labor & Delivery. The nurse-midwives will still provide your care and work with you to have the birthing experience you want. Read more about vaginal birth after Cesarean (VBAC) at UC San Diego Health.

Can I give birth in the Birth Center if I’ve tested positive for COVID-19 during my pregnancy?

Unfortunately, there isn’t enough data yet to truly understand the effect the COVID-19 viral infection has on the pregnant person and their baby. There could be changes occurring to the placenta that could impact the baby during labor and delivery. Until there is more evidence, we recommend extra monitoring during the 3rd trimester. This may include labs, ultrasounds and/or antenatal testing as well as continuous monitoring of the fetus during labor. Because of this, a COVID-19 infection during pregnancy requires giving birth on our labor and delivery unit and not in the Birth Center.

Can I have pain medicine in a Birth Center?

Yes, the nurse-midwives can order pain medications for you in a Birth Center room. Generally these are given as an injection (shot) or through an IV. You also can use hydrotherapy, birthing balls, birthing stools, massage, walking and breathing techniques for pain management. Epidurals are not given in a Birth Center because they require increased monitoring of you and your baby.

I know I want an epidural. Can I still see a midwife for prenatal care and childbirth?

Absolutely! The nurse-midwives support your choices, whether that is an epidural or a non-medicated birth. If you choose epidural anesthesia, you will give birth in Labor & Delivery with the nurse-midwife providing your care. (Learn more about pain relief available in Labor & Delivery.) After a short recovery time you and your baby will be transferred to a postpartum care  room, and the nurse-midwives will continue to care for you until your discharge home.

What is different about prenatal care with a midwife? Will I still have prenatal testing and ultrasounds?

Patients who see a nurse-midwife for prenatal care are offered the same prenatal testing and have the same ultrasound schedule as patients who see OB/GYNs or family medicine physicians. Our nurse-midwives believe in offering personal, education-focused care, with an emphasis on giving women empowering choices that help them be more involved in their own birth experience.

I want a natural birth and am concerned that this won't happen if I'm in a hospital setting. Can you reassure me?

We understand your wish to give birth without interventions and will do our best to help you in that goal. We will listen to your requests and act as partners in your care. However, there are times when birth does not go according to plan, and part of our job is to guide you down this path, making recommendations for the wise and respectful use of interventions. We have an excellent working relationship with our obstetric colleagues, and they will work closely with us should we need to consult with them or involve them in your care.

Why would I be transferred to Labor & Delivery from the Birth Center?

There are a variety of medical reasons for a transfer, most involving the need for increased monitoring for you and your baby. Please see Birth Center Eligibility for a complete list. We will involve you and your partner in decision making throughout your labor, including transfer to Labor & Delivery.

If I transfer to Labor & Delivery, will the midwife still attend my birth?

Yes, the nurse-midwife remains the primary care provider during most transfers to Labor & Delivery and continues to care for you until you are discharged from the hospital. If the need for a C-section arises, or other complications occur, then a physician will manage your care and the midwife will provide support throughout your hospital stay. From Labor & Delivery you will be transferred to the postpartum unit. 

Can I have a water birth?

No, but you can labor in our tubs in our Birth Center rooms, and many women find this extremely helpful. There are no tubs in Labor & Delivery.

What is a doula? How can I request one?

A doula is a trained birth assistant who provides continuous, one-on-one physical, emotional, and informational support to a woman during labor and birth. She provides no medical or nursing care. Since she doesn’t have these responsibilities, or other patients to attend to, she can stay by a woman’s side for the entire length of her labor. You can hire a private doula, who may offer additional services (prenatal visits, after-delivery visits at home), or you can request a free on-call doula from our Hearts & Hands volunteer doula program when you arrive at the hospital. Ask your midwife for more information.

Are there any limits on who can be with me during labor?

This is your choice. Partners, children, parents, siblings and doulas are all welcome. We encourage you to choose people that will support you and your choices during labor. Please understand that we do NOT provide childcare in our Birth Center rooms. All younger children must have a responsible adult to care for them. And please, no pets.

Is there a time when all the Birth Center rooms are full and unavailable?

This is extremely rare, but if it does happen, you will go to Labor & Delivery and be cared for by nurse-midwives. We do our best to create a Birth Center atmosphere and give you as many of the Birth Center options as possible. There are no tubs in Labor & Delivery, but there is a shower available. After giving birth, and a short recovery time, you and your baby will be transferred to the postpartum unit. The nurse-midwives will continue to care for you until your discharge home.

Is there an age restriction for mothers who want to deliver in a Birth Center?

No, you may deliver in a Birth Center room regardless of your age. This includes mothers who are 35 and older.

Is there any other reason I would not be eligible to deliver in a Birth Center?

Our Birth Center rooms are for healthy women who are having low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancies. Most women are eligible, but there are certain medical conditions that require giving birth in Labor & Delivery. Please see Birth Center Eligibility for a complete list, and discuss your medical history with your midwife. If you would like to transfer your care to the Nurse Midwifery Service, call 858-657-8745 for more information.

Will I get help with breastfeeding if I deliver in a Birth Center room?

Yes, all postpartum patients have access to our dedicated lactation consultants, who are available seven days a week. See Lactation Service for more information.