How Birth Care Began
Rita Rhoads, CNM, CRNP
Hi! 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 midwife.
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.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, Founder of Birth Care