The Toronto Birth Centre is a pilot project that emerged from a recent initiative to shift non-acute health services out of the hospital setting and into community-based healthcare centers.

In Ontario, more than three-quarters of women cared for by midwives have hospital births, while the rest choose to deliver at home. The midwife-run Toronto Birth Centre was created to offer a third option for woman with low-risk pregnancies who want a natural, out-of-hospital childbirth.

The seven-month construction period was completed in January 2014 and the birth center opened in February. Located in Toronto’s revitalized Regent Park neighborhood, the two-level, 13,000-square-foot facility was designed by LGA Architectural Partners (Toronto) to support the delivery of 450 births a year with a holistic approach to providing care for mothers and babies from conception to six weeks after birth. It also serves as a community hub offering prenatal classes, breastfeeding clinics, and parenting classes.

All of the birthing functions, which include three birth rooms and an assessment room, are situated on the ground floor with the more public zones, including  reception, family waiting areas, and a communal kitchen, organized along the street front. The second floor houses a midwifery clinic, exam rooms, family interview rooms, and offices. A multipurpose room hosts classes, community gatherings, and a midwife education program linked to a local university.

One of the main challenges was developing a new type of environment that would support the midwifery-led model of care being offered at birth centers. The design process involved ongoing, in-depth consultations with midwives, clients, and clinical specialists and several iterations of full-scale birth room mock-ups. The result is a facility designed for how midwives work and a model for birth rooms that support the philosophy of “active” birthing.

Photos: A-Frame/Ben Rahn