Natural Beginnings is the first natural birth center in the greater Cincinnati area to be located within an acute care hospital, according to officials at Atrium Medical Center. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Atrium adds home birth experience in hospital setting

Atrium Medical Center’s new Natural Beginnings Birth Center — a more than $1 million renovation at the Middletown hospital — opens Monday.

There has been an increasing number of babies delivered in birth centers — a more homelike setting that uses midwives and emphasizes natural childbirth — in recent years. From 2007-2014, the annual number of birth center births grew by 59 percent, according to the CDC National Center for Vital Statistics.

There are 344 birth centers in 39 states, according to the American Association of Birth Centers. The birth center industry has experienced a 76 percent increase since 2010, according to the association.

And hospital systems, like Premier Health, which operates Atrium Medical Center, are taking notice.

“Labor and delivery has become very technology oriented,” said Lynda Fultz, a nurse manager at Atrium. “While that serves a lot of needs for patients … there’s a lot of patients that really don’t want a lot of medication that may affect their baby or make them less able to ambulate or move around. I think they just want control of their delivery more than ever before.”

Located inside the Warren County hospital in Middletown, Natural Beginnings is the first natural birth center in the Greater Cincinnati area to be located within an acute care hospital, Atrium officials said.

The program is geared toward low-risk pregnant women who desire birth choices, giving them the chance to have their own experience without traditional interventions, but the safety net of emergency equipment and personnel only yards away.

The birth center is unique because of its holistic focus, hospital officials said. It offers whirlpool tubs and queen-size beds for delivery as well as certified nurse midwives on staff.

Classes have been filling “very fast” since the program launched four months ago, Fultz said.

“The interest in the Tri-State area has been really outstanding,” she said.

The “safety net” of a hospital setting has made the program attractive to pregnant women, said to Elise Huelskamp, Premier Health’s director of marketing for women’s health.

“They have the environment of a natural birth and kind of that comfortable surroundings, but they have the safety net, if you will, of having the full-service hospital just down the hall should they absolutely need it,” she said.

Atrium Medical Center is a member of Premier Health, which also operates Miami Valley Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital and Upper Valley Medical Center. Atrium is Middletown’s second largest employer, with more than 1,500 employees.

Approximately 900 babies were born at Atrium Medical Center in 2016, hospital officials said.