Catalan Midwifery co-op promotes positive approach to giving birth

The co-op also acts as a hub for families to meet up and discuss issues related to raising children

For 17 years a Catalan co-op has been pioneering an alternative model for giving birth. Set up in 2001, the Migjorn Birth House works to address the culture of fear surrounding the process of giving birth.

Based in Sant Vincenç de Castellet, a village in the Barcelona province, the co-op provides assistance with giving birth naturally at home or within its premises, preparing for it and offering support during the first months up to a year after giving birth. Clients can also access services from professionals in homeopathy, osteopathy, reflexology, physiotherapy or yoga.

From left: Co-op members, midwife Àngels Flor, gynaecologist Montse Catalán and midwife Anna Moreno

“We wanted to set up a house for giving birth to assist women in the process, particularly those living far away from hospitals,” says one of the founding members, Montse Catalán, now a retired gynaecologist.

She said the co-op’s work fell in line with a global movement to respect to the women’s need for privacy and shift the emphasis from medication to providing care for women and their children.

“The act of giving birth is completely healthy and it needs to take place in an intimate, personal environment. Of course, where there are risks related to giving birth, doctors in hospitals need to take over. Otherwise, it is a completely normal physiological process,” she added.

A team of midwives, therapists, and other professionals created the midwifery house as a co-operative venture, investing their personal capital. The centre has three full worker members and is collaborating with other professionals on a regular basis. They chose the co-operative model because they wanted to enable more participation and common responsibilities.

Clients of Migjorn at the co-op’s premises

Since creation the co-op has assisted with 1,200 births. It also acts as a hub for families to meet up and discuss issues related to raising children.

While the project has been successful, the members say they do not wish to open more centres. They prefer to help others develop their own midwifery centres and have regular interns from different countries coming to see how the co-op works.

Going forward, Migjorn will continue to campaign for greater autonomy for women and give them the option to manage their own health.

“It would be very important if the national health system provided assistance for giving birth at home and added it to the services it currently offers,” said DrCatalán. “At the moment giving birth at home can only be done with support from private practices.”

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