Women like having options, and Lesley Rathbun is an important force in one of our most important choices here in Charleston.
Rathbun’s baby, the Charleston Birth Center, has been the birthing alternative in the Lowcountry for seven years. She describes, "What a birth center does is take that middle ground between a home birth and a hospital birth."
Rathbun’s background is in nursing. After she received her masters in nursing, she gained certification as a midwife and family nurse practitioner, worked at an Amish birth center, and then moved to Charleston.
“When I started working at the Amish birth center, to be honest, I thought it was dangerous for women to have babies outside of the hospital. Then, I realized what’s being done to women in hospitals is overkill and that we could learn a lot from that model.”
Now, when people have the same qualm about the Charleston Birth Center, Lesley says, "I tell people that there are risks and benefits to everything you do. We're all pretty aware of that, especially with driving and texting and airplanes. Anything! Taking a bath! There's a risk to having your baby in a birth center, and there's a risk to having your baby in a hospital."
Right now, she is fighting that fight with the state. In 2013, DHEC threatened to shut down the birth centers in the state because regulations were outdated and stringent, so now Lesley is working to pass laws on national accreditation standards. Birth centers are becoming more mainstream, and she wants to provide a healthy and natural choice for the women of Charleston—these days about 30 women a month choose the birth center, and that includes some physicians themselves.
"People want a birth experience, not just a medically safe experience. They want more. A birth is like a wedding. It's a big deal! What I see with the people that come to the birth center is that they're the kind of people who want to drive the bus, not just ride on the bus. They're the team leader of their birth experience and we're the support staff."