Birth Centers: Better Care. Improved Outcomes. Lower Costs
The American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) is the nation's foremost authority and resource on birth centers. There are more than 300 free standing birth centers in the United States, which offer women a home-like, comfortable setting where they can receive maternity care with appropriate levels of intervention. Relationship, continuity of care, and increased time spent with clients are core components of birth center care. Multiple studies demonstrate that birth center care is safe, cost-effective, and leads to excellent outcomes when care is provided according to AABC Standards. Continuous risk screening is a key component of birth center care. Women are screened for risk status throughout pregnancy care, labor, and birth to ensure they are appropriate for the birth center setting.
Freestanding birth centers are currently under-utilized in the United States, with only 18,219 births or 0.5 percent of all U.S. births occurring in birth centers in 2014. Though the percentage of women who currently give birth in birth centers is low, it is increasing. There has been a 75 percent increase in the number of birth center births in the last ten years. The birth center model of care is limited in part by regulatory barriers, inadequate reimbursement, or coverage denials by contracting Medicaid, Managed Care Organizations, TRICARE, and other health plans.
Birth Centers Are a Good Value
Freestanding birth center care is one of the enhanced care models being studied in the Strong Start for Mothers and Newborn Initiative sponsored by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. AABC convened a group of 45 birth centers around the US to provide enhanced prenatal care services to Medicaid beneficiaries.
Preliminary data show that AABC Strong Start participants enrolled in the study experienced a preterm birth rate of 4.75 percent, a low birth weight rate of 3.2 percent, and a primary cesarean rate of 8.4 percent for more than 4700 births. National rates for these indicators are 9.6 percent for preterm birth, 8 percent for low birth weight, and 21.5 percent for primary cesareans. It is estimated that birth centers save Medicaid more than $19 million per 10,000 births just for cesareans prevented.
Contact Jill Alliman, DNP, CNM, Chair of AABC's Government Affairs Committee