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Photo: One of two birthing rooms at the Reykjavík Birthing Centre. Screenshot via Stöð 2..

New Birthing Centre Aims to Innovate, Empower

A new birthing centre has opened in the capital, Vísir reports. Owned and operated by midwives Embla Ýr Guðmundsdóttir and Emma Marie Swift, the Reykjavík Birthing Centre is a reincarnation of a former birthing centre with the same name, which ceased its operations three decades ago.

Located in the new neighborhood of Hlíðarendi, the Reykjavík Birthing Centre has been open for patient consultation and facility visits for several weeks. On Wednesday, the National Medical Examiner approved the Centre to begin its operations in earnest. It employs four midwives, all of whom have different specialties, and dozens of women are planning to give birth there in the coming months. Emma Marie and Embla Ýr estimate that in the beginning, they will be able to assist ten women a month, although there’s always the possibility they will hire more midwives and expand their facilities in the future, if all goes well.

Focus on continuous care

The Centre aims to give parents more options when planning their births. And given that their services are subsidized by Icelandic national health insurance, the cost to expectant parents is comparable to what they’d find at, for instance, the National University Hospital.

Continuous care is the guiding philosophy at the Centre. “It’s about the midwife accompanying a woman and her family through the pregnancy and birthing process and then for the first ten days after the birth,” says Embla Ýr. The Centre also aims to create a homely environment and parents-to-be are encouraged to visit the facilities and beforehand, to make for a more comfortable birthing experience.

Both Embla Ýr and Emma Marie teach at the University of Iceland and advocate for this style of maternity care in their classes. “We wanted to let the work speak for itself instead of just talking about this style of service and its impact. We wanted to create a place that would give us an opportunity to work in this way,” says Embla Ýr.

Trilingual service for increased accessibility

The Centre has two birthing rooms, as well as consultation rooms and a large hall in which various classes, such as yoga and pregnancy counseling, are held. The courses are taught in three languages—Icelandic, English, and Polish—for increased accessibility.

“We wanted to bring everything together under one roof where the people who come here can be absolutely certain that everything’s being done according to the same philosophy,” says Emma. “That is, to empower, to support natural births, and to support continuous service in such an expanded way.”

Preserving a legacy, but still seeking to innovate

The original Reykjavík Maternity Centre operated on the corner of Þorfinnsgata and Eiríksgata from 1960 to 1992. Emma Marie and Embla Ýr spoke to women who had been patients at the original Centre before opening, and Emma says that most of them had fond memories of it and were eager to see its legacy preserved. And both Emma Marie and Embla Ýr are committed to being just as innovative in the services they offer to their patients today as the original founders were in their own time.

“A lot of things we take for granted today started there and that’s maybe what we’re gesturing at by keeping the name—that we want to be a similar place,” says Emma Marie.

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