Earlier this week, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with local midwife and owner of Birthing Your Way, Heather Shelley, and Utah’s doctor for out-of-hospital birth, Dr. Ronald Baird about how they have joined forces to bring the benefits of a licensed physician to out-of-hospital birth in Utah.
Dr. Baird is board certified in family medicine and has been attending births since his residency in 1996. As his career progressed, Dr. Baird eventually opened his own private family practice in which he was attending 10-15 births a month. After many years, Dr. Baird closed his private practice and has since been focusing a lot of his work on addiction medicine, as well as cosmetic health and wellness, and of course, out-of-hospital birth. For years, he has been backing up midwives and going to home births and birth center births to provide his extensive suturing skills when requested.
Heather Shelley is a certified professional midwife licensed with the state of Utah. She owns the birth center Birthing Your Way in Utah, which she opened over 14 years ago. Heather has a bachelor’s degree in midwifery, a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and is working towards becoming a nurse practitioner. She is also an IBCLC, as well as a former doula.
We were able to ask Heather and Dr. Baird a few questions about their services, and with their permission, we’re going to share their responses with all of you.
Q: What would the benefits be of having Dr. Baird at a birth?
A: Dr. Baird has the ability to use medications and tools that midwives cannot. For instance, he can augment labor with Pitocin or other medications, and he can also use a vacuum or forceps to help birth the baby, when needed. Dr. Baird is also highly skilled in extensive suturing, so if there is a severe tear that needs to be repaired, a hospital transfer could be avoided because Dr. Baird could successfully complete the repair without needing to go to the hospital. In fact, many different situations in which a hospital transfer from a home birth or birth center might normally be needed could be resolved through a transfer to Dr. Baird’s care at the Birthing Your Way birth center, instead.
Q: In what circumstances would someone “risk out” of being cared for by Dr. Baird for an out-of-hospital birth?
A: Dr. Baird would not be able to care for you if your blood pressure is so high that magnesium would need to be administered, or if labor begins before 36 weeks gestation. It would also be recommended that you transfer to hospital care if your baby is expected to need any sort of NICU stay. And of course, if you will desire or require an epidural or cesarean, Dr. Baird cannot perform those things, and you will need to be cared for in the hospital.
Q: Does Dr. Baird only attend the births of Birthing Your Way clients?
A: While Dr. Baird is part of the Birthing Your Way care team, he is also available and willing to work with any other midwives in the area and their clients. Dr. Baird can partner with your chosen midwife and accompany them to your birth. Dr. Baird would be the backup care provider, and the midwife would still be your primary care provider. These births where Dr. Baird would be present would still ideally take place at the Birthing Your Way birth center. Any midwife can apply to utilize that center for their client’s birth.
Q: Does Dr. Baird accept insurance?
A: Yes, out-of-network benefits with most insurance companies can be applied towards Dr. Baird’s care.
When asked why Utah’s doctor for out-of-hospital birth felt drawn to the out-of-hospital birthing community, his response was as follows:
“We really want to provide care for that person who wants to stay out of the hospital, but might need or want the care of a doctor. We’d like to give them good medical care and a great birthing experience, and we want people to know that there are options. There is a way to have a doctor at your delivery without going to the hospital. If you’re in that high-risk group that might cause you to risk out of care with your midwife, you can become my patient and still birth out of the hospital with your own midwife, but with me as the backup present during the birth.”
All of us at Utah Valley Doulas are so thrilled that Dr. Baird is providing his services to those who want an out-of-hospital birth experience, but who also might need or want to have a doctor at their birth. We believe in options when it comes to birth, and we love that this is yet another wonderful option for birthing families in the Utah Valley and Salt Lake Valley areas!