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Midwife Center Doubling The Size Of Its Penn Avenue Location

Sarah Schneider
90.5 WESA News

The Midwife Center in the Strip District expects 470 babies will be born at the center this year, almost double the births five years ago.

Executive Director Christine Haas said this increase is reflected nationally as women want more options and a holistic approach to pregnancy.

Birth centers nationwide are tracking a "a dramatic increase in demand," she said. Locally, the center has experienced more primary gynecological visits as well, she said.

The center launched a capital campaign last year to double the size of the facility and has since raised half of the $3 million needed to expand the lot next to its Penn Avenue location. Plans include two new birth suites, several exam rooms and a classroom.

Haas said once construction is complete, the Midwife Center will be the largest free-standing licensed birth center in the country.

The facility caters to low-risk patients but maintains the same safety standards of a traditional hospital, save the staff and support to perform cesarean section surgeries. Patients wear their own clothing and can eat and drink during labor. The rooms are equipped with Jacuzzi tubs for water births, and when necessary, staff can facilitate care with UPMC Mercy when hospital births are a better fit.

Ann McCarthy, clinical director of the Midwife Center, said it’s important a woman feels empowered during her pregnancy by making decisions rather than just being a recipient of care.

“Even if they end up transferring to the hospital and having a birth they didn’t plan on, if the fear component is reduced during the process, they are happier about the experience," she said. "And really, we’ve lost sight of what the experience of having a baby is.”

Beyond the physical expansion, Midwife Center administrators celebrated added services such as a behavioral health specialist.

“We’ve already secured funding for one year of a behavioral health specialist so that when women come to us, everyone can be offered a visit with a mental health therapist during their pregnancy,” she said.