VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. - A Central Florida couple is sharing their harrowing birth story after a recent analysis by Gatehouse Media found more Floridians are choosing to skip the hospital to have babies.
That analysis scoured thousands of state records and found that Volusia County is second in the state, only after Sarasota County, for the percentage of out-of-hospital births.
Those facilities are required to track every time a patient is taken to a hospital mid-delivery. Investigative reporter Karla Ray looked into the track record of six birthing centers in Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Brevard counties.
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Gatehouse Media uncovered records of back-to-back deaths and other problems dealing with licensing at centers in Sarasota County, but 9 Investigates did not find any similar red flags in recent records in Central Florida.
Still, one Central Florida couple is urging anyone considering this choice to do their research.
Volusia County residents Pamela Rice and Nathan Rice brought their daughter, Ariella, into the world at a birthing center in Texas. They say Pamela almost died during delivery, after requesting to be taken to a hospital multiple times.
“When she came out, immediately I prayed, and I said, please let me go,” Pamela Rice said.
According to the couple, Pamela Rice lost nearly two liters of blood while giving birth to Ariella.
“She was hemorrhaging so badly, and was losing blood so quickly,” Nathan Rice said. He said everyone in the room was shaking.
Gatehouse Media found that out-of-hospital births in Volusia County accounted for 3.39 percent of all births over the most recent fiscal year, which is well over the statewide average of 1.76 percent.
“Up until the birthing point, I enjoyed everything about the room,” Pamela Rice said.
9 Investigates found experiences like the Rice’s should be rare, because the law requires birthing centers to transport mothers and babies in distress to nearby hospitals.
“It’s never a hesitation,” licensed midwife Mary Surprenant said about transferring mothers to a hospital when necessary. “I’m doing what’s best for the baby and the mama.”
Surprenant is a licensed midwife at Inspiration Family Birth Center in Orange County, which had 263 successful deliveries over the last three fiscal years. Records said during that same time period, 23 mothers were taken to the hospital mid-birth, for failure to progress during labor, pain management or concerns about the baby’s heart rate.
9 Investigates reviewed the same annual reports for the six active birth centers in Orange, Seminole, Volusia and Brevard counties. More than 200 women have had to be taken to the hospital mid-delivery, compared to 1,200 babies born without any problems.
“I'm happy that (the hospital is) there, and we have those obstetricians to be there for us, but it's not for everybody, and it wasn't there for years and years,” Surprenant said.
Surprenant said that in addition to individualized care and fewer drugs, more parents are choosing birth centers because of cost. What would cost around $50,000 and up at a hospital, costs less than $10,000 at a birthing center.
Nathan Rice said that money isn’t everything.
“I’ve never seen anything like that. There's no amount of money you could ever give us to go through anything like that again,” he said.
9 Investigates did not find any recently reported infant deaths at any Central Florida birth centers.
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