March 19, 2013: A new study by the American Association of Birth Centers shows that receiving care from a midwife-led birth center might be the safest and most affordable option for healthy, pregnant women.

“The National Birth Center Study II” indicates that such birth centers decrease the rate of cesarean birth, thus lowering health risks for both the mother and the child. Cesarean rates for Tampa Bay area hospitals in Hillsborough and Pinellas Counties range from around 35 to 45 percent, while the national average hovers around 32 percent. Nationally, that rate decreases to about 6 percent at midwife-led birth centers, said Chris Hilderbrandt, ARNP, CNM, at Largo’s Breath of Life Women’s Health & Birth Center.

“A C-section is major abdominal surgery,” Hilderbrandt said. Risks include “bleeding, blood clots, infection, [negative] effect on healthy bacteria. … You face these problems with pretty much any major operation.” So it’s important to avoid such intrusive surgery whenever possible.

Natural births are much safer for both the mothers and babies, she said. Since the mothers aren’t administered epidurals, the babies aren’t born depressed from the medication. Also, mothers who don’t take epidurals aren’t as immobilized during birth and are able to better position themselves during the delivery. Additionally, mothers don’t walk away from the birth with uterine scarring, which can affect future pregnancies.

“We find that the statistics hold up that when you don’t do things during a pregnancy that are unnecessary, babies are much healthier and so are the moms,” Hilderbrandt said.

And if there are any complications during birth or even an indication that there might be an issue, the center quickly transfers them to a local hospital and also has medication and equipment on hand to handle certain emergencies.

Birthing centers also tend to be more affordable than a hospital birth. Breath of Life’s business manager Glenda Pearson says they accept all forms of insurance, Medicaid and offer flexible self-pay options for expectant mothers.

Plus, such birthing centers don’t prolong unnecessary hospital stays, which cuts down on costs. And costs for cesarean births soar compared to vaginal deliveries.

“If a mother wants our services, then we do our best to make sure they’re able to get them,” Pearson said.

Breath of Life is Florida’s only birth center recognized by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers. Led by three certified nurse-midwives, the licensed center opened its doors in 2007 and since then has assisted with the birth of more than 400 babies. It also provides women with general gynecological needs, and is able to care for women throughout their lifetime, from teens to post-menopause.

Because the center is led by nurse-midwives, Hildebrandt says “we’re more part of the medical community” than other birthing centers. This means they’re able to prescribe necessary medications and procedures as needed.

For more information about Breath of Life, 1900 East Bay Dr., call 216-1420 or visit