River Valley Birth Center was started in 2014 by Erika and Joe Urban. Erika became a CPM in 2009 and began offering midwifery care in southern Minnesota. She knew her eventual goal was to open a birth center, so every few months she would run all of the numbers and study budgets and projections to see if the time was right. The planning became more serious in 2011 when Erika attended a “How to Start a Birth Center” workshop put on by the AABC. One day in 2013 she ran all of the numbers and told Joe that the numbers worked and it was time to start. There was a lot to do: find the right building, work on zoning, apply for the right permits, find financing, write policies, etc. Joe and Erika were able to close on the building in February 2014 when they then began renovations to turn a beautiful single family home into a beautiful birth center that kept all the charm of a home. River Valley Birth Center was accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers (CABC) in June of 2014 and granted a license by the state of Minnesota. The first births in the birth center took place in July 2014.
Photo of Joe and Erika doing demolition on the bathroom of our main birth room.
Photo Credit: Jesse Ellerbroek
Increasing Access to Care
One of the biggest draws to opening a birth center was the opportunity to increase access to midwifery care. Birth centers have a proven record of safety and extremely high patient satisfaction rates. While homebirth midwifery care also has high satisfaction rates, payment by insurers has always been an issue and in the case of Medicaid it is nonexistent. A licensed birth center allows for families to have another option for maternity care that can also be covered by insurance, including Medicaid/Medical Assistance.
River Valley Birth Center became an Essential Community Provider in 2015. It has always been a top priority to serve underserved populations and areas. We will not discriminate based on type of insurance/payer as we want all families to be afforded the same respectful care we strive to provide.
Sustainability and Responsibility to Our Community
We have created an option for maternity care that is honoring our responsibilities to our community. Rural Minnesota has been facing a crisis of maternity care options as fewer and fewer counties are able to provide care. Freestanding birth centers are an option to help bridge those gaps in a sustainable way and we hope to see more of them open in the future.
At River Valley Birth Center we also take environmental sustainability and responsibility seriously. We are consistently striving to leave a smaller footprint and to tread more gently in our community.
Some of the actions we take to limit our environmental impact and maintaining a healthy work environment:
- Environmentally friendly dish and laundry detergents
- Maintaining gardens and fruit trees
- Our needs for paper towels, tissues, and napkins have been primarily replaced with cloth alternatives
- Toilet paper made of recycled paper (going cloth for toilet paper was a bit outside our comfort zone)
- Using cloth chux pads (underpads)
- We replaced exam table paper with fabric sheets we can launder
- Rather than buying disposable instruments, we prefer to buy better quality instruments that can be sterilized in an autoclave and reused. This includes our resuscitation equipment.
- Instruments needing to be sterilized are typically sterilized in reusable fabric wraps rather than paper/plastic envelopes
- While we stock liquid hand soap, we also have bar soap (that we make onsite) at each sink to reduce our use of plastics.
- High efficiency appliances and boiler system
- High efficiency lighting
- Natural all-purpose cleaner we make onsite for routine daily cleaning
- When medical grade cleaners are required, we choose the safest products we can find
- We provide birth kits for families having homebirths to reduce the amount of individual waste
- We enjoy hanging linens in the sun to dry whenever weather allows
- We recycle all suitable items
- Most of our forms that require signatures are now laminated so that we can upload the signed form into the chart, erase the signature and reuse the form
Many people would be surprised to discover that a typical birth in our birth center creates only enough garbage to fill an 8 gallon trash bag half way!
While we are far from perfect, we are continuously improving our ways of doing things to increase the positive impact we have on our community.