The Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre: A Unique Approach to Birth and Beyond

Photos courtesy of the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre

Birth is a big deal. One of the most special moments in a family’s life, it simultaneously changes and creates lives. There are so many ways to give birth in the modern world we live in, but it’s important for women to have the option to do it however and wherever they choose to, enabling them to feel comfortable, respected and empowered. What better place to consider for the big event than the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre (OBWC)?

Located at 2260 Walkley Road, the not-for-profit, midwife-led community healthcare facility specializes in both healthy childbirth and caring for pregnant women, new parents and young babies. The Centre strives to be a centre of excellence for healthy childbirth and serve as a safe option for low-risk births around Eastern Ontario. A free option available to all residents of Ontario registered with an Ottawa area midwife, they provide inclusive professional care to help babies, parents and their families navigate this major transition.

Everything they do is guided by the values of quality care, compassion, integrity, respect, excellence, positivity, collaboration and accountability. Staff actively listen to their clients to understand their needs and respect each woman’s choices for her unique birth, working to create the best possible experience for women and their families.

“It is a warm, homelike environment where people benefit from the comforts of the space,” says Elyse Banham, Executive Director of the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre. “They come here with a provider that’s known to them within the community.”

The facilities at the OBWC are nothing less than top notch. The Ontario BORN evaluation found that the birth centre was a safe and desirable location to give birth and that it was equally safe when compared to home or hospital.

Modern, warm and comfortable, the three spacious birthing suites offer women with midwives and low-risk pregnancies a casual and family-centered place to give birth. Designed with midwives in mind, they are equipped with all the resources needed to support clients through labour and childbirth, including large labour and birth tubs, showers, suspended slings, TENS machines, birth balls and stools. They also offer a rejuvenating lounge, kitchen, on-call rooms and community spaces for clients and midwives.

But that’s not all; the birthing suites are just one half of the building. The opposite side features offices, consultation and examination rooms, and gathering spaces perfect for classes, workshops, seminars and community events, all available for rent.

The Wellness Centre hosts a range of practitioners and offers community-based healthcare, yoga classes, childbirth education and everything in between. They also host a variety of services available for families, such as massage therapy, naturopathic medicine, prenatal classes and mom-and-baby classes.

“You get so much more space and so much more comfort than you typically would if you chose a hospital birth,” says Banham. “You get so much more, but it’s still covered by your health coverage – it’s like ‘care plus’.” One family who chose to have their birthing experience with the OBWC even said that “they felt like they got away with something”.

Laura St-Cyr, who gave birth to both of her children at the OBWC, describes her experiences as amazing, fun, unique and perfect. “Choosing where to birth was about determining where I felt most comfortable, secure and at ease,” she says. “We critically assessed and visited all our options. I was at ease from the moment I walked in to OBWC.” While her first experience was quick, giving birth within 2O minutes of arrival, she revels that the second time was a lot of fun since they danced the night away with great music. “The tub was amazing!” she raves. “The tools and comfort measures are all there, how you use them is totally up to you, and you will create your own unique experience and story to take home with your baby.”

Rebecca Hall (pictured below), another mom who has given birth with the OBWC, says that she chose the centre because of its “very human approach to childbirth” and for the beautiful space. “We had such a great relationship with our midwives, and we liked the idea that the OBWC was mid-wife run,” she says. “Our experience at the OBWC was absolutely wonderful. From the moment we stepped into the Centre (or, more accurately, I lurched in!), we felt so well-supported. The staff and the space itself was so warm and safe and welcoming.”

Having served clients in the capital for four years now, the Centre is a local hub for pre- and post-natal care. Home to experts on maternal and newborn health, it’s a place where people can feel comfortable to seek the care that they need.

“Women have a choice in their healthcare and midwives and the centre exist to empower them to make the best choice for their families,” says Banham. “We’re lucky in the Ottawa community that we have the choice between home, hospital and birth centre. Specifically right now, there’s a broader societal discussion regarding the empowerment of women and choice and for me, the centre and midwives are the physical embodiment of choice.”

Hall calls her experience incredible. “The pain management options were great, and I really appreciated how much agency I was given, and how much space my husband and mother were given to support me. After [our baby] Hattie was born, the birthing centre joined in the celebrations and were great about welcoming my family in to meet our new baby.”

The provincial government will cover the care of a midwife and the use of the OBWC even for people without OHIP or other health coverage. This makes it a warm and welcoming environment for new Canadians and refugees within the community.

“Our goal moving forward is expanding our roots into the community,” says Banham. “I hope through the care provided by midwives and the space provided by the OBWC that [families] feel comfortable to make their decisions and feel supported in those choices so that it’s the most positive birth experience that they could have.”