Alison Haasch and Sally Stevens are on a mission to make childbirth as pleasant as possible. To further that aim, they've opened the first midwifery and birthing class office in Queen Creek.
Alison Haasch and Sally Stevens are on a mission to make childbirth as pleasant as possible.
To further that aim, they've opened the first midwifery and birthing class office in Queen Creek.
"We want women to have nice births," Haasch said. "(The memory of giving birth) sticks with you for life. It doesn't go away."
Midwives aren't physicians but are licensed to assist women with low-risk pregnancies in giving birth, often at home.
Haasch is one of 58 midwives licensed by the Arizona Department of Health Services and one of 15 based in the East Valley. The state board of nursing has a separate licensing program for midwives who practice in medical settings.
Haasch's 2-month-old office, LifeSpring Midwifery, LLC, is the first of its kind in Queen Creek.
Stevens, an apprentice midwife and doula, someone who offers support during pregnancy and delivery, runs birthing and newborn care class Blessed Expectations Births out of the same office.
Business has gone up about 30 percent since they've opened the office, both in class attendance and new clients, Haasch said.
They picked the location because they both live in the area and Stevens said some people are more comfortable coming into a professional setting for consultations.
"A lot of people picture hippy-dippy, 'I squatted under the apple tree and gave birth to my baby'" experiences with midwives, Stevens said. "But really, a lot of times it's women doing research and doing what's best for their baby."
Some studies, including one by the British Journal of Medicine, have shown that home births are just as safe as hospital births, said Rohno Geppert, who oversees midwives as the licensing program manager for the state health department. The department's Web site also notes fewer birth complications and cesarean sections with midwives.
Of the 100,088 births recorded in Arizona in 2008, 621 were home births, according to data from the state health department vital statistics records.
The same department reported 5,853 babies delivered by midwives in 2007.
But Geppert believes the number has actually risen 3 to 5 percent over the past few years based on the quarterly reports he receives.
A lot of parents who deliver at home delay sending information to vital statistics, sometimes for several years, which skews the numbers, Geppert said. He didn't have exact figures available.
Geppert has noticed an increase in people delivering at home to avoid diseases like MRSA in hospitals.
And there's one other advantage.
"It's more cost-effective," he said. "It's $2,000 to $3,000 compared to $15,000 in a hospital, depending on what they need."
Midwives go through three- to five-year apprenticeships before they can take licensing exams, Geppert said. Those consist of two written exams, a verbal exam and a practical test where they demonstrate procedures.
They're also trained in handling emergency situations, including transfer to a hospital if needed, Geppert said.
"A lot of folks think midwives are kind of lay professionals, but that kind of implies that they don't have a lot of direct training," Geppert said. "That's not at all true in Arizona."
Before birth, exams are done on the same schedule with the same tests offered as a conventional doctor's office, Haasch said.
But when talking about differences from a conventional doctor's office, Haasch and Stevens emphasized the amount of time they personally spend with the women.
Haasch is there for the full hour of each exam. She encourages parents to research and ask questions so they can make decisions, such as what kinds of tests to get during the pregnancy, Haasch said.
The midwives also spend time on subjects such as nutritional counseling and assessing things like stress levels to ensure healthy pregnancies.
"Preventative care makes a lot of sense when your paycheck depends on it," Stevens said.
At the end of the process, they even give dads the option of catching the baby, Haasch said.
"We've had a few dads take us up on that," Haasch said. "Most of them just appreciate the offer."
Client Kelly Wise, who gave birth to her daughter, Salina, four weeks ago, said she looked into midwife care after some pregnant friends mentioned different childbirth options they were considering.
"I don't like hospitals, anyway. I don't like the idea of being drugged up," she said.
Wise went to both Haasch and her OB-GYN for exams and noticed a difference. For instance, a nurse at the OB-GYN did the tests for Wise, while Haasch guided her in doing them herself.
"It really does make a difference, just dipping a stick in liquid," Wise said.
Stevens was influenced to enter the field based on her own good experience - after giving birth to her third child under a midwife's care, she left her job as a database architect at a bank to study childbirth.
"We do a lot of education and really empower families to make the right decisions," she said.