Practicing parturition with an open mind

Heather Shelley had a breakthrough after giving birth to her first child that led her to her career in midwifery.

“My first birth was with a doctor in a hospital and it wasn’t a good experience,” Shelley said. “ I had post-traumatic stress disorder; I had nightmares.”

For many women, pregnancy and childbirth will be one of the scariest experiences they ever have, but there has been an increasing focus on creating the relaxed environment for women to deliver their babies. The awareness of options like using a physician or a midwife to assist with labor is increasing among women who can give birth naturally without serious complications.

It’s not uncommon for people to be fearful or anxious about being in a hospital for any reason at all, so the options of births at homes or at centers are regaining some popularity. Recently, Shelley and her business partner, Sherri Price, also a midwife, established Feels Like Home Birthing Suites, a birthing center in Pleasant Grove. The appearance of the place is almost like a relaxing country cottage, and most people don’t realize that the old blue house on 200 S. is a place women can give birth.

“We try to offer a homelike environment,” Shelly said about the experience she envisions for women who use the facility. “Prenatals are held in the birthing rooms. We want the home like environment to let your body do what it needs to do.”

The birthing center provides both common and uncommon techniques and remedies for moving a baby from the womb to a wide-open world. One such technique is attention.

“Time with the mom – the whole time,” Shelley said. “We’re the nurse, doctor and assistant. We try using herbs and homeopathics first, then medications after if they need it.”

The midwives try to answer as many questions as the new mother has while establishing the calm environment in which women can comfortably give birth. Shelley’s philosophy on the birth process is one of accommodation, education and empowerment, and the information available to mothers is much more accessible today than it was before the Internet was widely available.

“Knowledge makes you take responsibility for your baby’s health,” Shelley said. “When something goes wrong, the clients have taken responsibility. Some doctors guarantee a perfect outcome or say there’s not much of a need. We empower [women]; we don’t suppress them.”

Midwives, however, aren’t able to handle everything that can happen in a pregnancy, so obstetricians have remained a first choice for women who worry about potential problems.

“The most important difference between the midwives and the physicians is how we handle complications,” said Mark Saunders, an OB/GYN and owner of Central Utah Clinic Women’s Center. The clinic employs both physicians and midwives. “A midwife can handle certain aspects of the birthing process, but a doctor is able to handle complications.”

The most important thing that both midwives and obstetricians can help a mother looking at different birthing options with is how comfortable they are.

“[The mother] has to have confidence that the physician or midwife will take care of her during the pregnancy,” Saunders said.

“It’s what is convenient for her, not for me.” Shelley said. “It’s what’s healthy. They trust us and we trust them. We’re upfront with them. We can’t control what nature does.”

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