Alumni Spotlight: Bringing Childbirth Back to Nature
Rachel Sieman, ’94 BS in Nursing
YSU nursing grad Rachel Sieman has never liked the way modern medicine handles healthy, normal childbirth – the fetal monitors, the IVs, the rules against eating and drinking and getting out of bed. “We just make it so abnormal when it really isn’t,” she says.
Determined to provide an alternative for women who want a more natural birth experience, the 1994 YSU nursing grad and mother of four has opened the Mahoning Valley Birth Center in Youngstown. Sieman said the center, licensed by the Ohio Department of Health, is the only freestanding birth center in the state that is open to the public – there is one other, available only to Amish women.
While many hospitals have given their labor-and-delivery rooms a homey décor, Sieman argues their standard procedures for women in labor still make the experience more difficult than it should be. In most cases, she said, once admitted to the hospital a laboring woman can’t eat, drink or walk around, she has an IV in one arm and a fetal monitor fastened around her middle.
Her own childbirth experiences inspired her decision to open a birth center. She was required to follow the usual childbirth rules with her first two children, now 23 and 21; with her second two, now 18 and 15, she delivered with the assistance of a midwife and experienced more relaxed, natural births.
“In a healthy pregnancy with no complications, it can be so different,” she said, describing the way women in labor at the Mahoning Valley Birth Center are encouraged to snack, drink, walk around and even step outside.
The center’s two birth rooms are equipped with birthing tubs that are used to help women relax during labor. “I’ve had some moms say that the water is so comforting, they hardly feel the contractions,” she said.
Fetal monitors are used intermittently instead of continuously; IVs are available if needed but not required; and the staff has immediate access to equipment for resuscitating baby or mother, if needed. “We have all the medical safeguards in place, but in a homelike environment,” she said.
Sieman chose her location carefully. It is 1.3 miles away from Northside Medical Center, and the hospital has agreed to accept immediate patient transfers if a mother or baby is ever in distress. The birth center doesn’t accept high-risk pregnancies.
As a certified nurse-midwife, Siemen provides prenatal care to patients at Progressive Women’s Care in Boardman, under the supervision of obstetrician Dr. Joni S. Canby. Canby is also collaborative physician for the birth center. So far, Sieman said, about half her patients have chosen to deliver at the center, the other half have chosen hospital delivery – she also has midwife privileges to deliver babies at St. Elizabeth Health Center and Northside.
Sieman grew up in Youngstown, earned her BS in nursing at YSU in 1994 and started her career as a registered nurse at Sharon Regional Hospital, Sharon, Pa. She later worked at St. Elizabeth and the Doughty View Midwifery Center in Millersburg, Ohio. She earned her midwife certification in 2007 from the Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing after training at Beeghly Women and Infants Pavilion in Boardman and in 2008 completed a master’s degree in nursing from Case Western Reserve University.
As a midwife and birth center director, Sieman is often on call around the clock. On days off, she and her husband, Richard, enjoy traveling to visit their two adult sons – Robert, a West Point graduate who’s now an Army helicopter pilot stationed in Alabama, and Alex, an electrical engineering major at the University of Pittsburgh. They also have two teenage daughters, Katherine, 18, a nursing student at YSU, and Gwendolyn, 15.
(Previously Published in YSU Magazine, Fall 2013)