Freestanding Birth Centers - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Freestanding Birth Centers

For more information about this program please contact:

Margie Schaps
Executive Director

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Freestanding Birth Centers

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For more than 30 years, Health & Medicine’s Birth Center Task Force has provided policy expertise and leadership for the birth center movement in Illinois. Birth centers provide a space for women to give birth outside of their home following a normal, uncomplicated, and low-risk pregnancy. They offer cost-effective, high-quality prenatal care and obstetrical services in conjunction with other community health care services, offering women an additional option when choosing where to give birth in Illinois.

The Birth Center Task Force has led efforts to expand the availability of birth centers in Illinois following three key developments in mid-2020: 

  • Interest by two certified nurse midwives who sought to open a new birth center in the growing obstetrical desert on Chicago’s south side
  • Two statewide maternity-related task forces recommending expansion of the birth center model in Illinois
  • Reimbursement challenges from Medicaid that plagued Illinois’ two existing birth centers—the Birth Center at PCC Community Wellness Center (an FQHC-run center in Berwyn) and the Birth Center of Bloomington-Normal (a private, downstate center led by midwives)—and threatened to embroil two forthcoming centers

In response, the Task Force initiated a two-prong legislative approach to tweak language in the Alternative Health Care Delivery Act to increase the maximum number of birth centers in the metro Chicago area from four to six and create a separate licensing category for birth centers in Illinois to alleviate some of the reimbursement issues. 

In 2021, Health & Medicine amplified our birth center advocacy with a fiscal sponsorship supporting the development of Chicago Southside Birth Center led by Black midwives. In continuation of Health & Medicine’s advocacy and support for the expansion of birth centers, progress has occurred on several fronts:

  • Approval by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board of two new birth center permits: the first hospital-owned birth center (Northpointe Birth Center) in Roscoe, IL (owned Beloit Health System) in 2021 and the first center located in a rural area (Quincy Birth Center) in Quincy, IL (owned by the Quincy Medical Group) in 2022
  • Continued growth and operation of two recently opened birth centers: Burr Ridge Birth Center in the southwest Chicago suburbs and Birth Center of Chicago and on Chicago’s north side, both private birth centers run and led by midwives

In parallel with this work, Health & Medicine has supported related efforts to create a licensing category for certified professional midwives in Illinois and to establish a pilot project that studies the benefits of home births for pregnant persons of color who receive Medicaid. 

To join the Birth Center Task Force, please email Margie Schaps at