MOORHEAD (AP) -- After 20 years of helping mothers give birth in their homes, a midwife has opened Minnesota's first out-of-hospital birth center.
The center, called The Stork's Nest, is designed for women who prefer a homelike setting for delivery but also some amenities they can't get at home.
Midwife Jill Kent believes a key attraction to the birth center will be a specially-designed laboring tub, where women can give birth in water while being cradled by their spouse.
"There are people who don't want to go to a hospital to give birth, but they don't feel comfortable giving birth in their own homes," she said. "I can't do anything more than I could in their home, but people are conditioned that they have to go somewhere to have their babies."
Kent, who attends 15 to 20 home births a year, said she expects around two births a month at the new center. She'll also use the center for prenatal visits, birth-related classes and a baby boutique.
Kent is licensed by the state medical board, but Minnesota has no guidelines for licensing birth centers. Legislators discussed the issue last year but didn't take further action.
"I think this center will potentially accelerate the need for grappling with this issue," said Mike Tripple, assistant director of the state division that licenses health facilities.
The state licenses health-care facilities based on the number of people served and the length of time they stay, leaving most medical clinics and offices to be unlicensed.
Tripple said the health department won't push the licensing issue with a one-bed facility. But he thinks birth centers may become more popular as the state becomes more culturally diverse.
"There seem to be benefits to the moms and it may be a better alternative for individuals who don't want to get into the hospital system." he said. "We need to deal with this situation."
Midwives across the state are watching.
"What happens to Jill (Kent) will set the tone for others who do this," said Kerry Dixon, head of the Minnesota Coalition of Certified Professional Midwives. "She's a good test person because she's been a midwife for many years and has credentials on the national and state level."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.