A birthing center plans to open its doors in Astoria this summer.
Rebeckah Orton, the owner of North Star Doula Service, and her husband, Adam, want to give pregnant women another option besides home birth or a hospital.
The Astoria Planning Commission, following staff recommendations, approved the couple’s application Tuesday to establish the birthing center in a building Orton owns over the river downtown. The building currently houses a dentist’s office and a yoga studio.
Orton expects the birthing center will be able to serve around 10 women a month to start. She has received support from the Clatsop County Public Health Department, as well as the Lower Columbia Hispanic Council.
While the coronavirus pandemic makes operations a little more complicated, Orton said the center’s newly hired midwife expects to begin providing in-home prenatal visits in July.
“We do know that we are going to be very carefully vetting anybody who comes to the center,” Orton said.
When the midwife visits people at home, everyone will be wearing protective gear and the midwife will wash and change before the next appointment.
Orton describes a birthing center as “a happy marriage” of both a home birth experience and a hospital experience.
“Home birth isn’t necessarily ideal for everyone,” she said. “It might be too far from the hospital or it may not be in someone’s comfort zones.”
Hospitals might also be problematic for some.
“A birth center is often described as a high-touch, low-tech model of care,” Orton said.
However, she added, the birthing center is located minutes away from Columbia Memorial Hospital if a woman needs to transfer for whatever reason. Birth apartments at the center will be homey, with fluffy pillows, large tubs and a comfortable, comforting atmosphere.
The ideal client for the birthing center is a woman who is carrying a single child and does not have certain complications with her pregnancy. But even a woman who does not plan to have her baby at the center can still receive prenatal care there.
Besides a midwife, the center will employ birthing assistants and anticipates working closely with doulas, professionals trained in childbirth who are able to provide nonmedical support to expecting mothers before and during labor and even after birth.
North Star Doula Service is separate from the birthing center. A doula’s job is to support a woman wherever they choose to deliver, whether that’s at home, in a hospital or at a birthing center, Orton said.
Planning commissioners did not note any issues with Orton’s application.
Astoria has sought to limit overwater development along the river, but the birthing center met the standards in the Urban Core section of the city’s Riverfront Vision Plan, which covers Second Street to 16th Street.