New birth centre opens in Regent Park with Ryerson midwifery grads on staff

One of the birthing rooms at the Toronto Birth Centre. (Victoria Kuglin/Ryersonian Staff)

One of the birthing rooms at the Toronto Birth Centre. (Victoria Kuglin/Ryersonian Staff)

A pair of umbilical scissors snipped the ribbon to mark the grand opening of the Toronto Birth Centre on Jan. 22.

In March 2012, Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews and then-Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty came to Ryerson to announce the development of two midwife-led birthing centres in Ontario.

The Toronto Birth Centre will provide women with low-risk pregnancies with the opportunity to have non-hospital births, promoting natural birth and ultimately freeing up hospital beds for high-risk deliveries.

Mary Sharpe, director of the midwifery education program at Ryerson, said the building will be an asset to Ryerson’s midwifery community.

“We’re incredibly lucky to have the centre situated so close,” Sharpe said. “There will absolutely be a connection between the centre and our students since the Toronto Birth Centre is an educational facility dedicated to helping midwifery students.”

Ryerson midwifery graduates already make up 14 of the 17 midwives on staff at the facility, which is led by Seventh Generation Midwives Toronto.

Although completion of the Regent Park facility was set for summer 2013, setbacks delayed development.

After a few finishing touches are added, however, the facility will be fully operational for expecting mothers in the coming weeks.

The centre has three birthing rooms – Ash, Birch and Cedar – each with a full-size bed, bright white birthing tub and private bathroom.

The Ontario government is investing an annual $1.3 million into the centre, which will be able to oversee up to 450 deliveries a year.

There has been a push for birthing centres in Ontario since the 1970s. These centres give women a third option beyond at-home or in-hospital births when choosing where to deliver their babies.

Despite the excitement surrounding the centre and its addition to the revitalization of Regent Park, Pauline Becker, co-chair of the Association of Ryerson Midwifery Students, said it’s important to note that this is not the first birth centre in Ontario.

“The facility is wonderful and they did an amazing job of providing a really special, comfortable and safe atmosphere,” Becker said. “But it’s important that we recognize that it’s not the first.”

The first centre was the Six Nations Birth Centre in Ohsweken, Ont., which has been delivering newborns since 1996.

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on January 29, 2014.

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