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Health, Science & Tech

Pittsburgh’s Midwife Center Gives Birth To New Facility, 9 Months After Groundbreaking

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
Christine Kroce, a nurse at The Midwife Center, located in the Strip District, demonstrates one way a woman would use a birthing swing while maintaining an upright labor or delivery.

After months of building and $3.8 million in construction costs, the Midwife Center in the Strip District has more than doubled its space to 11,700 square feet. Unveiled by officials on Thursday, it's now the largest freestanding birthing center in the country. 

Check out our photo tour of the new facility below.

Credit Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

Brian Coffman, 31, of Churchill, holds his son, Jackson, who was born on March 2. Jackson was one of the first babies born in the new facilities and the first water birth, said his mother Robyn. Her first child, her daughter Meadow who is 18 months, was born at a hospital. Robyn said her second experience giving birth was much different. "It was so much better," she said. "Here, I had a nurse and a midwife. The support from them was amazing, they made me feel like I could do it naturally." 

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The rooms at The Midwife Center have colorful walls and are draped with curtains and fabrics in warm hues, more akin to a bedroom than a hospital room. It's a distinguishing characteristic that's not lost on certified registered nurse practitioner Dana Bloomburg, who's worked at the center for eight years. "We try to make things more colorful and more home-like," she said. 

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Colorful birthing swings allow women an opportunity to find more comfortable positions while standing during labor. Certified nurse-midwife Emily McGahey said an upright labor can have its challenges. "It's hard on your body and your hips and it makes you tired," she said. Women can lean on the swing, wrap the fabric around their wrists and hold on for support while squatting during contractions, or sway back and forth. "I've also had dads just sit in it," she said with a laugh. 

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Several birthing rooms also have large tubs for water births (as well as Jacuzzi jets and colored lights). McGahey said women can use the tub in different ways, including by sitting in it or bracing themselves along one of the deep sides for support while standing or squatting. 

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Executive director Christine Haas, Pennsylvania Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny), board president of the Midwife Center Dr. Christine Andrews, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pennsylvania), Midwife Center campaign chair Cecile Springer, Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross and Pittsburgh chief urban affairs officer Valerie McDonald-Roberts cut a ceremonial ribbon for the center's new facility. 

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What once was a colorful outdoor mural on the side of The Midwife Center's original facility has become the decorative interior wall of its new waiting room. Called "Celestial Weaving Girl," by Lucas Stock, it was commissioned as one of the Spout Fund's public art projects and is reflective of the center's services and some of Pittsburgh's iconic images, said Executive Director Christine Haas.