The Atlanta Birth Center
The Atlanta Birth Center
Taking Birth Back
Anjili Aurora Hinman
While, in a way, it is absurd that we live in a world where advocating for the widespread practice of women giving birth in the way nature designed is considered an innovation, so it is. It is surreal that, as the US spends more and more money on the commonplace and unnecessary use of childbirth practices designed as life-saving measures in worst-case scenarios, we continue to fall farther and farther down the list of indicators of healthy births.
Today’s Chiropractic Leadership would like to honor the Atlanta Birth Center (ABC) – and its founding midwife partners – as innovators and entrepreneurs who have steadfastly held to their dream of a rebirth of sanity in the practice of childbirth. The ABC provides quality care to mothers and families and is founded on the same principle as chiropractic – that the body knows what it’s doing. The Center will empower women to take back their control over the birth process and wrest it back from a mechanistic model that treats childbirth as a disease.
The Center’s principal midwives recommend chiropractic care as an integral part of conception, pregnancy, birth and early childhood. When the ABC is complete, it will provide a unique multidisciplinary collective that is the world’s most innovative alliance between a chiropractic clinic and birth center in the world. The ABC’s approach to childbirth has the potential to revolutionize current practices by giving childbirth the respect it’s due as the process that has, so far, resulted in seven billion of us…and counting. In honoring the ABC, we honor the two women who comprise the driving force behind it: Margaret Strickhouser, the inspiration, and Anjili Aurora Hinman, the executive director.
TCL: For which professional achievements will you most want to be acknowledged?
Atlanta Birth Center (ABC): Establishing a community driven, client centric, holistically minded sanctuary for birthing and primary care and creating a true interdisciplinary model that supports the fulfillment of human potential from before conception, through pregnancy and birth, and beyond.
We’d like midwives Margaret Strickhouser (who is circling the 40-year mark in her career as one of the pioneer midwives in Atlanta) and her counterpart in founding ABC, Anjili Aurora Hinman, to be remembered for leading the way to a renaissance of natural childbirth in a time when the all-too-recent past included such common practices as strapping women down on gurneys, not allowing partners or family members to be with her, and giving them powerful drugs that not only relieved ban but caused amnesia. A new mother would wake alone not remembering anything, and might not see her baby or family for hours or days. The babies also suffered ill effects – most often a depressed central nervous system – as a result of the drugs given to their mothers. As a result, babies were often not born so much as pulled from their mothers with large metal tools.
Even though the birth experience in the US has come a long way, that’s quite a legacy to overcome, and there is a long way to go. Today, most women are offered hospital rooms that sometimes even quite spacious and allow partners to be present and look homelike with hardwood floors and calming wall colors. However, the standard experience still strips women of control in their birthing experiences. It still too often involves women being tethered to machines with wires and IV drips, restricted from moving from the bed or eating, given powerful drugs to induce or intensify her labor often for non-medical reasons, a doctor who spends only a few disjointed minutes with her during labor and appears just in time to deliver a baby and then leave.
We at the Atlanta Birth Center, as a partnership between allied natural, holistic and Vitalistic healthcare professions, want to be remembered for changing all that.
TCL: What projects are you working on now (or have worked on recently) that you are most excited about and would like more people to know about?
ABC: The only project over the last five years is making the Atlanta Birth Center a reality.
We are excited every day to find new opportunities to communicate
Our Story and what we are doing because our vision is fundamental to the future. Restoring respect for and access to natural is a cause that affects every single one of us, because it is how our individual Stories begin.
Today’s birth experience, although improved in many ways, still lacks the basic tenets of evidence-based care. A woman having a baby in the US is three times more likely to deliver by major abdominal surgery as not. This represents two to three times the rate the World Health Organization recommends as an appropriate use of this life-saving intervention. We are also finding more opportunities to point out that obvious fact.
Every day we are able to share our message, we hope to reduce the number babies who are automatically given formula as the easiest solution to a crying baby from overworked nurses. Every day we share our message, it becomes obvious that women are revolting against this type of care and choosing in higher and higher numbers to birth their babies at home because the option for a birth center is not available to them. Every day, we’re excited to move closer to a restored norm in providing support for this fundamental life process that nature has designed to work without intervention. It involves women trusting in our bodies’ abilities to birth children without fear or complication in a safe space.
We’re excited to support a natural birth that offers a life changing experience where women and their families feel empowered and cared for continuously. We’re excited to move away from overusing very expensive medical interventions when they are not needed and known to cause harm.
Families tell us all the time that the care they received during their pregnancy and birth is healthcare they wish they could have throughout their lifetime. We wish that, too, and want to make that experience a reality. We have so much going for us right now – an immense desire from the community, clinical partners, a Certificate of Need from the state, a backup hospital, a beautiful space for which we just signed a ten-year lease, a committed staff, and countless women literally planning their pregnancies in order to be able to give birth in the birth center.
We’re excited, every day, to remind people women’s bodies work. Midwives and birth centers work. There is not a demand issue for birth centers. The demand is there. Every day since our organization began five years ago, women ask for a birth center. The issue is the supply. There are around 300 birth centers across the country, but only one in Georgia located in Savannah. Currently, only 0.25% of women deliver in a birth center. If that number were even 10% of healthy women with low risk pregnancies, we’d already be saving close to 3 billion dollars per year just from the facility charges alone. Every day, we’re excited to advocate for utilizing methods that we know work and save costs.
We mention cost to highlight the tremendous benefit of the birth center option, not just to individuals but also to our nation’s spending. Currently, we spend more than any other country in the world on healthcare, with maternity and newborn care at the top of the list. Midwives and birth centers are a solution to what has been called the perinatal paradox – where we are spending more but having worse outcomes.
There is a message here that needs to be heard clearly and spread widely, over and over again. Birth matters. We are all born, after all, and we all matter. Before us is this moment to create something special so our daughters and our sons have a place to thrive and be cared for today and for generations to come.
TCL: Is there anything else you’d like to share with TCL readers?
ABC: It’s important for TCL readers to know the birth center itself is only a fraction of what we plan to use the rest of the space for. We have partners committed to sharing our space including a chiropractic practice (through Life University, the largest chiropractic program in the world), a naturopathic physician practice, a psychology practice, a breastfeeding and nutrition practice, an acupuncture practice, as well as a medical practice. Our experience so far in taking care of patients together, holistically, has improved lives for the better. Beyond this group of practices already working together, we have constant interest from other practitioners and service providers that want to be part of a shared vision, a new model of how to hold and heal individuals in health.
Once the capital funds are in place and the ABC is able to open our doors, we will present a viable business model that can be replicated across the country, producing birthing centers that will continue to serve for generations as the sensible, evidence-based approach to birth.
For TCL readers who wish to contribute to making the ABC a reality as for natural, Vitalistic birth – stay tuned to TCL for information on giving opportunities that will increase the profile of chiropractic’s role in healthy pregnancy, birth, and childhood.
For readers who would like to know more about ABC, you may find additional information at www.atlantabirthcenter.org.
For readers who would like to see and hear ABC mothers and families share their birth experiences supported by midwives, you may view the video at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3W8Mp64xGlo&feature=youtu.be