I am Rita Rhoads, certified nurse-midwife and family
nurse practitioner. I founded Birth Care in 1978
(formerly Rhoads Family Health Services). on the
corner of the family farm, in Lancaster County,
Pennsylvania. At that time there were no other birth
centers in Pennsylvania and less than 10 recognized
centers in the United States. I wanted a place where
women could have a "home birth" atmosphere and not
be obligated to go to a hospital if they were low
risk and planning a natural childbirth.
In Lancaster county, home births had never ceased,
as in many areas of the U.S. In 1978, there were
still family doctors such as Paul Herr and Grace
Kaiser who delivered at home. Out-of-hospital births
were viewed as normal by many families. There were
no nurse-midwives in Lancaster County, so when I
came home from midwifery school at Frontier Nursing
Service in Kentucky, it was an adjustment for the
Lancaster doctors to get used to the idea of a
nurse-midwife doing births. They did not want to
offer hospital privileges or employment to a
Since out-of-hospital birthing was "normal" to my
culture, and I wanted to serve any woman who desired
an out-of-hospital birth, not just those who lived a
few miles of my home, I decided to open a birth
center so that any woman could come to my office for
their "home-style" delivery. I also believed that
birth center and home births should be safe,
therefore I equipped the center with the appropriate
medical equipment that could be used in an
emergency, but would not be used for normal natural
childbirth. The equipment is portable and can be
taken to home births.
I felt that all women should have continuity of
care, not fragmentation of care, and that care
should be personalized. Women should be guided
through decisions, not told what to do. They should
have the right to question the plan of care and
assist in it's formulation. High tech interventions
should be reserved for high risk pregnancies, and
not looked upon as "routine". Families should be
included if they wished to be involved.
In March 1978, I opened for practice with Dr. Robert
Kemp as the consultant physician. We had an
agreement with St. Joseph Hospital in Lancaster, PA.
for transfer of complicated pregnancies.
We have come along way since then! I was the first
midwife to receive hospital privileges at a
Lancaster hospital in December 1993, when I began
delivering babies at Community Hospital of
Lancaster. Today all our midwives have admitting
privileges at Ephrata Hospital to deliver women who
need transferal to the hospital due to complications
or preference, although most women choose to deliver
at the birth center or at home.
People often ask what type of women use our birth
center. I have delivered farmer's wives, and lawyers
wives. I have delivered physicians. I have delivered
teenagers. Childbirth makes all women equal. We all
want to be able to control our birthing experience,
and have a wonderful, miraculous, soul-stirring
birth. We want our baby received into caring hands
and placed on our tummy, not put on a hard "infant
care center". We want time to nurse and to bond. We
want our family and/or friends beside us, and we
don't want to fight to have these. This is what I
wanted for my own five births (birth center babies),
and this is what we offer to women whom we serve.
Hospitals have their place, and sometimes we need
them, but for myself, I was glad to be in a quiet,
supportive environment to birth my babies.
Several changes have occurred over the years. The
center name was changed to Birth Care in 1993 when
we became a non-profit corporation. Birth Care
received Pennsylvania state licensure and is still
the only licensed birth center in Lancaster, York or
Chester Counties. We also serve the women of
Northeast Maryland and western Delaware.
Pennsylvania licensure, and national accreditation
by the CABC (Commission of Accreditation of Birth
Centers), speak to the safety and quality of care
offered by our center.
In 2001, after 24 years in practice, I moved from
the Director of Midwifery position to a consultant
role with the birth center. Meanwhile, I served on
the Board of NACC (National Association of
Childbearing Centers) now AABC ( American
Association of Birth Centers) and am a site visitor with the CABC for accrediting birth centers. I also serve on
the Pennsylvania Department of Health Committees.
The birth center has been open 25 years, and the
midwives delivered the 3000th baby in September
2003! We look forward to serving you - in your birth
experience, in your gynecologic care, or in your
menopause counseling. Feel free to email us or call.
We would be happy to give you a tour of our facility
and further discuss our services.
Rita Rhoads Martinez Reed CNM, CRNP
AABC American Association of
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