With Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville announcing that it will temporarily suspend labor and delivery services beginning in August, another option for local women is emerging.
Lotus Blossom Birth is a home birth midwifery service founded by Amanda Whatley and Ally Barr. The service offers all-inclusive care and limits the practice to three clients per month.
The midwifery care includes initial free in-home consultation; regularly scheduled prenatal visits in your home; all lab work; one ultrasound (between 18 and 22 weeks); complete care and support in your home during the birth until at least two hours after birth; postpartum care; newborn care for the first six weeks; and birth certificate filing.
Barr and Whatley are both licensed through the state as LMs (Licensed Midwife) and CPMs (Certified Professional Midwife) and have been midwives for almost three years.
They attended a school called Mercy in Action and completed an apprenticeship in Fort Worth.
Between the two, they have attended over 150 births. Barr said she and Whatley decided to create their business because it offers a “birthing alternative.”
“Some women would prefer to be in their home or to have more personalized care. Midwifery is more about a partnership than it is about having a patient, so we very much support informed choice,” she said. “Our appointments, if you were comparing us with a physician, last an hour, whereas a physician is about 15 minutes. We focus heavily on nutrition, exercise, wholistic measures, which just means encompassing the whole body, and then it becomes more of a partnership, where we expect the mom to make more of the choices in her pregnancy with the information that she has.”
Barr said that home births are popular in Texas.
In the United States, approximately 35,000 births per year occur in the home according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
The ACOG recommends that women who are inquiring about planned home birth should be aware of the risks and benefits.
“Specifically, they should be informed that although planned home birth is associated with fewer maternal interventions than planned hospital birth, it also is associated with a more than twofold increased risk of perinatal death (1–2 in 1,000) and a threefold increased risk of neonatal seizures or serious neurologic dysfunction. These observations may reflect fewer obstetric risk factors among women planning home birth compared with those planning hospital birth.”
Barr said Lotus Blossom Birth uses caution before allowing an expectant mother to deliver at home.
“For low-risk mothers, it has been proven to be just as safe or safer than going to the hospital. We don’t take moms who have had three or four C-sections or have significant other health problems, things that need to be under a physician's care,” she said. “We have a physician that backs us up in his prescriptive privileges and for anything that we might need a physician for but otherwise, most of the appointments are done in the client’s home and then they have their birth at home, so we are well-trained in emergency management.
“We do carry oxygen. We carry some medications. It’s not just a, ‘Hey, let’s light a candle and play a drum and have a baby at home,’ but that’s the way a lot of people look at home birth midwifery, that it’s a little bit out there, that it’s a little bit ‘new agey’ and it’s really not.”
Lotus Blossom Birth currently serves Erath, Hood, Hamilton and the surrounding counties.
Barr lives in Hico while Whatley lives in Stephenville. They will travel as far as an hour radius between Hico and Stephenville. They also have rights to a birthing center in Waco.
There are some key differences between having a hospital delivery and an at-home delivery.
For instance, there are no interventions, meaning Barr and Whatley will not try to induce or augment labor. They also do not offer pain medication.
“Being at home in a comfortable surrounding can be its own epidural,” Barr said.
She also explained how animals and humans are alike when giving birth.
“When an animal gives birth, it secludes itself; it goes into the darkest portion of the room where it feels safe and comfortable and 95 percent of the time, those births don't require any kind of intervention. So we apply the same concept to human birth, allowing them their privacy and their space and their comfort as opposed to a hospital birth. There are no bright lights or students and janitors walking in or embarrassing gowns - all of the things that could disrupt that hormonal cycle for birth,” she said.
Lotus Blossom Birth does not take insurance, but Barr said their cash pay price is lower than most patients’ hospital deductibles.
For expectant mothers who are wary of having a home birth, Barr advises women to research their options to make an informed decision.
“We need physicians. We need that backup. We need a good working relationship with them so in no form or fashion are midwives anti-obstetrician and most obstetricians, we enjoy a wonderful working partnership with and if that low risk pregnancy turns to a higher risk pregnancy then we are grateful and thankful to have those physicians backing us up,” she said.