On Thursday, Virtua Health opened a Midwifery Birth & Wellness Center in Voorhees. Suitably, its debut fell during National Midwifery Week, which occurs between Oct. 3 and Oct. 9, according to the American College of Nurse-Midwives.
The facility is the only freestanding birth center in South Jersey, according to its Oct. 7 opening announcement, and offers a natural approach, known as physiologic labor and birth, in a home-like setting. It is adjacent to Virtua Voorhees Hospital on Route 73 and includes three birthing suites, each with a queen-size bed, walk-in shower, birthing pool and private patio.
Families can gather in the communal living room or the kitchen, and patients have access to walking paths to keep their bodies moving.
“Starting or growing a family is a hugely exciting time for everyone involved, and so we pride ourselves on providing personalized experiences that celebrate the individual and reflect their respective preferences and values,” said Stephanie Fendrick, Virtua Health executive vice president and chief strategy officer.
The center also contains the Virtua Midwifery practice, where women can receive routine wellness care, including screenings, counseling and consultations.
Karen McEvoy Shields, administrative and clinical director of the center, has been a practicing certified nurse-midwife in South Jersey for more than two decades.
The center’s four midwives, including McEvoy Shields, offer services including caring for teenagers, helping women with fertility issues, providing pre-natal and post-partum care, and offering menopause support.
‘Low-tech and high-touch’
McEvoy Shields has been the guiding light for every detail about the center, down to the paint on the walls, according to Virtua’s announcement.
“When someone walks in, I want them to feel instantly relaxed,” she said. “Some people have compared the center to a hotel; others say it looks like a spa. For me, I want it to feel like home.”
For the birthing process, midwives “take extra time for relationship-based care,” said Kamil El, a certified nurse-midwife at the Center. “I sometimes refer to it is as low-tech and high-touch.”
“We aim to really get to know our patients,” added Emily De Penning, another certified nurse-midwife. “In our early consultations, we discuss their hopes and wishes for their pregnancy in addition to their medical history. That allows us to work together to shape the experience they have in mind.”
In the event that medical intervention is necessary, the center’s location next to Virtua Voorhees Hospital gives patients quick access to treatment and care options.
“The Midwifery Birth & Wellness Center provides another option for women who don’t want or need to give birth in a hospital setting,” said Dr. Nicole Lamborne, vice president of clinical operations for women’s health services at Virtua.
“The Center is the result of Virtua’s commitment to supporting all of our maternity patients and their families by providing the best possible labor and birth experiences to meet all of their expectations,” Lamborne said.