From the Forum – Midwife and birthing center recommendations in DC

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Midwife and birthing center recommendations in DC:

“We are having our first baby and are inexperienced with navigating the healthcare system for pregnancy and delivery. We are interested in using a midwife and would ideally like to give birth in a birthing center attached to/near a hospital but don’t know of any reputable places in DC (if they even exist).

Does anybody have experience or recommendations for either how to go about finding this information out, or have recommendations for specific midwives in the area?”

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33 Comment

  • Best bets are GW or the midwives at Washington Hospital Center. The midwives at the Family Health and Birth Center are wonderful (and will deliver at WHC), but due to a staffing shortage they aren’t doing births right now. For more detailed advice, check out the Expectant Moms forum on D.C. Urban Moms.

  • I second the GW midwives- they are great!

  • Congrats! In addition to the GW & WHC midwives and FHBC (who did my VBAC at WHC & were AMAZING), you can go outside the District–I know there are midwives who deliver at Shady Grove, and there’s BirthCare in Old Town Alexandria (birth center or homebirth only, no hospital unless an emergency transfer).

  • I third the GW midwives recommendation!

  • Birthcare & Women’s Health in Alexandria has been doing it for a long time. They are wonderful! They assisted in our two home births, although they have an on-site birthing center and privileges at other hospitals.

  • PoP– Nice pic!

  • Will also put in a plug for GW midwives. They only deliver at GW, but they’re fabulous.

  • Wait, so people are choosing not to give birth at hospitals with the assistance of an M.D. these days? And if so, then why? Just curious.

    • Doctors push drugs and c-sections more than they need to. Most midwives in the city deliver in hospitals. They have a lower rate of emergency c-sections.

      • In fact, midwives have a very low rate of emergency c-sections…ya know, because they can’t perform them.

    • Hospitals are for sick people. Homebirth is a wonderful option for an expectant mother with a low-risk pregnancy.

    • My good friends did a water birth in their NYC apartment living room (they bought some sort of special inflatable pool). She was a low risk pregnancy, all check ups just prior to birth (both mom and baby) looked good, so they went for it. Her mom, husband, and midwife were there for 20 hours of labor.
      They absolutely rave about the experience and really enjoyed being at home. They had plenty of food, water, clothing, towels, she could watch TV or turn on music, and then she was able to recover in her own bed. If things went bad, it would be a quick 15 minute cab ride to the hospital. And plus, it was dirt cheap compared to a hospital birth.

      • make sure your apartment can support the weight of a full birthing tub, your building has enough hot water to fill it, and your neighbors don’t mind a couple hours of screaming and groaning!

    • Midwives are medical professionals specializing in labor and delivery. For a healthy mother with a complication-free, low-risk pregnancy, a trained and licensed midwife has the skills needed for a safe delivery outside a hospital, generally at a fully-staffed birthing center but sometimes at the mother’s home. If complications arise during labor, the midwife should have admitting privileges at a local hospital (birthing centers generally have an agreement with a local hospital). (Even a home birth isn’t inherently riskier if a trained, licensed midwife with admitting privileges at a nearby hospital is present, although it will take longer to get to a hospital or get an ambulance if anything goes wrong.) Midwives also work in the OBGYN department of hospitals, such as at GW.

      Women who have low-risk pregnancies often prefer to give birth with midwives in birthing centers because they’re a medically safe environment, but one that’s less stressful than a hospital. Women may not want to be encouraged to have a c-section or use painkillers. Also, hospital births can be incredibly expensive, and M.D. supervision of the birth is unnecessary for a majority of expectant mothers, so some mothers choose birthing centers or even home births for financial reasons, too.

  • I’ve heard some of the midwives at GW are a bit ideological and that can lead to some problems if there are any complications. Have heard good things about WHC.

    • Ok super biased here but yes yes yes yes yes yes YES to this. Seriously, yes. If you are going to do the midwife route, go to the meet the midwives events at both GW and WHC and see what works for you. You want to have a good rapport with the team and their vibe. My biased experience: The WHC midwives are wonderful, patient-focused caregivers with *no agenda* and they work well with the OBs and L&D nurses. They do incredible work with a wide population of mamas in the city, especially teen mothers and I strongly feel that they have seen it all and know how to put you at ease and help you feel good about your pregnancy/birth experience. I had a very negative experience with the GW practice during a pregnancy and I’ve seen friends go through there and have mixed experiences, some saying they would never go to that practice again. Ultimately you need to find a place that respects your needs.

      • Conversely, I have several friends who have all RAVED about the GW midwives. They are very clear about their approach to pregnancy and birth, and they expect that you are on board, if you decide to go with them.

        Review their literature. If you are a good fit for their practice, you will have no problems. I’m currently seeing them, and they are all excellent.

  • We had 2 wonderful homebirth experiences with MAMAS ( I think they work with birth centers as well.

    • My friend had the MAMAS as her midwives for the births of her 4th & 5th children – she recommends them as well.

  • I never post here, but just have to because I feel so strongly about this: I recommend giving birth at an actual hospital, with midwives there if possible but definitely with ObGyns and ideally a NICU for if things go wrong. I can very much recommend Georgetown hospital (I gave birth there), and no one was pushing a C-section ordrugs on me at all. I actually think hardly anyone does anymore these days. I had a super easy and healthy pregnancy, and everything looked set to run smoothly, but in the end I had a very long (30plus hours of heavy contractions – believe me, I can take pain, but without the eventual epidural at hour 24 or so, I would have simply passed out) and complicated delivery with the cord wrapped around my baby’s neck and body (which they can’t really detect before birth), which caused his heart to stop during contractions. I can assure you you’ll want those drugs to stop the contractions for a while until they can make sure the little one is ok if you see that heartbeat line dip down and disappear. With the support and super professional guidance of the OB there, I pushed him out safely without a C-section, but boy was I scared – more than ever before in my life. And happy to know that there was a NICU right there if he had needed it, and doctors standing by for an emergency C-section if that had been necessary to save his life. If something had gone wrong and I had put my baby’s life in danger by having chosen the wrong spot to give birth, I would probably have never forgiven myself. Totally natural birth plans are great (I had one too – and hope you’ll be able to have a wonderful delivery experience!!) and many midwives are awesome, but complications during birth unfortunately do happen more frequently than you’d think, so I can just say from my own experience that if that happens, you’ll want to be in the most prepared place possible – which is usually a hospital. All the best for you and your family!

    • I agree – – I had an extremely healthy, easy pregnancy, no issues whatsoever, even an easy delivery (Virginia Hospital Center in my case, and definitely no pressure from my ob or hospital staff on any aspect of how I delivered). But, my son was born “large for gestational age” and like many LGA babies (I subsequently learned), he had fluid in his lungs and could not breath well. He needed immediate treatment in the NICU. It could not have been predicted or prevented, but I am so thankful we were at a hospital and able to have him safely treated. MIdwives are wonderful, and having one work at a hospital sounds fantastic best of both worlds.

  • I, too, rarely post here and unlike the PP, I can say that DC hospitals, or more specifically, some OBs **DO** still push interventions and really do not provide any kind of support for mothers who prefer minimally invasive, nonmedicated births (to the extent that’s possible and safe). I know this all from personal experience. Frankly, the nursing staff (i.e., hospital staff) were far more supportive of my birth choices than the on-call OBs were.

    Having said that, I have also heard pretty decent things about Georgetown, which is not where I delivered. The OP isn’t talking about homebirth, BTW.

  • We were really excited to see this question come up on Popville’s forum today! Additionally, the mention of so many American College of Nurse-Midwives members (and their hospitals or practices) is also great! We would like to invite everyone on this thread to take a moment to view a video about midwifery care. The video was launched during National Midwifery Week in October. It’s an excellent resource for everyone and helps to dispel often heard myths about midwifery across the United States. Please share it if you find it powerful!

    Lastly, a helpful tool: the Midwife Finder!

  • I live in DC but used midwifery associates in Rockville and birthed at Shady Grove. It’s not a birthing center but my midwife was amazing, the shady grove nurses were very attentive and for the most part the staff left me and my baby alone to bond. I highly recommend both (the practice and the hospital)

  • What baby animals are pictured here? Squirrels? Rabbits? I cannot figure it out.

    • I was wondering the same thing — the ears are so long that I think they must be rabbits, but the coloration made me think of chipmunks, and the faces looked like squirrels’.

  • I, too, was looking for a birth center attached to a hospital, but they don’t exist around here. The 2 options, birth centers in DC and alexandria, don’t provide anything more than does a midwife in a homebirth. We went with MAMAs midwives and have had 2 great homebirths with them. Our home is closer to the “back-up” hospital than the birth center was to the hospital so it helped make the choice easier.

  • Like many of the responders – I can tell you from our experiences that GW midwives are fantastic and GW is the best hospital to give birth for many reasons. We were just there and it was our second birth and a wonderful experience. The new hospital is not only great, but it is the only hospital in DC that you can walk across the street to a bunch of great options for food – including a whole foods. Any other hospital you are stuck with cafeteria food, which is worth pointing out because you’re hospital stay is usually 3 days. Hospital food is hospital food, get yourself connected to a midwife at GW ASAP so they don’t tell you there is no room for you. AND I strongly recommend finding a doula to birth you. It is a VERY GOOD IDEA to. Congrats and enjoy the ride!

  • Another option that I haven’t seen mentioned yet are the midwives based at Mary’s Center. There are a few locations for Mary’s Center in DC. There’s one right on Georgia Ave near the metro in Petworth, so it’s a great option for those who don’t feel like driving and paying to park at Hospital Center or GW. The check-in and scheduling process can be a pain but the midwives are lovely and the scheduling/wait times are fine as long as you get an early AM appointment, and schedule your next visit with the nurses at the end of your current visit rather than relying on the phone service.

    There’s also a midwives practice at Providence Hospital.

    I delivered at Washington Hospital Center with the midwives, which was mostly fine. I will note a few annoyances – it’s a teaching hospital, so at some points there were really a lot of people in my room, particularly when my labor became complicated. I think I probably could have pushed back against the interventions more, but they did ultimately decide to break my water, use petocin, and some other interventions when my labor slowed. Some midwife practices have policies against using any interventions at all. My birth did go to an emergency C-section due to complications.

  • Another recommendation for GW midwives – specifically Laura Emmons. I had a traumatic experience with my first pregnancy/delivery and she was so supportive and patient and really advocated for me to have a better experience. She kept up with me even after I had serious complications that necessitated my care being transferred to a high risk OB at GWU (Dr. Larson who was wonderful as well) and even came to the hospital when my water broke in the middle of the night and stayed there through the night managing the delivery team.

    Just a warning that GW midwives only take a limited number of patients so you need to get in as a patient ASAP.

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