ACOG/SMFM Consensus Statement: Recognizing Birthing Centers As An Answer
A new consensus statement by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialists, recognizes that women need to have a wide range of options in childbirth, ranging from out-of-hospital births with midwives for women at low-risk of complications to regional perinatal centers with specialist care for women facing the most severe complications.
The statement, “Levels of Maternal Care”, was released in January 2015. While standardized designations for levels of neonatal care have long been in place to ensure that babies receive care at the hospitals that best meet their needs, this is the first time that uniform standards will be defined and put in place to achieve consistent levels of care for women. These guidelines have the potential to improve maternal health outcomes by supporting women in obtaining the level of care that is most appropriate to their needs.
The consensus statement defines five levels of maternity care, each with guidelines establishing the appropriate staff and capabilities for that level of care:
- Birth Centers
- Basic Care (Level I)
- Specialty Care (Level II)
- Subspecialty Care (Level III)
- Regional Perinatal Health Care Centers (Level IV)
“Levels of Maternal Care” also stresses the importance of facilities of different levels collaborating to develop and maintain effective transport and transfer agreements in order to provide the care that will best meet women’s needs.
Among the most encouraging aspects of the consensus statement is its recognition of Certified Midwives (CMs), Certified Professional Midwives (CPMs), and Licensed Midwives (LMs), alongside Certified Nurse Midwives, obstetricians, and family practice physicians, as appropriate maternity care providers for women with low-risk, uncomplicated pregnancies.
Freestanding birth centers are explicitly incorporated into the levels of maternal care, endorsing birth centers as an appropriate place for low-risk women to give birth.
The statement has garnered widespread praise, including being endorsed by the American Association of Birth Centers, The American College of Nurse Midwives, The Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses, and the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers.