1975- the Maternity Center Association opened the first birth center in the United States in New York as a demonstration project to see if costs could be lowered while having good outcomes for mothers and babies when birth occurred outside the hospital. The idea expanded and by 1983 the American Association of Birth Centers (AABC) was formed to advance this model of maternity care nationwide. From this point on the growth of birth centers has been consistent across the US, and by 2015 there were over 300 birth centers in the United States. While all freestanding birth centers must be licensed by their respective states, not all of these birth centers adhere to the standards set forth by the AABC.
1983- The AABC created a set of national standards for freestanding birth centers in 1983. A method for accreditation was proposed similar to how hospitals are inspected and credentialed, and the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers (CABC) was established in 1985.
1985 - National Standards for Freestanding Birth Centers are adopted by the membership of AABC. Upon finding that accreditation through the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals and the Association for the Accreditation of Ambulatory Health Care will not be feasible, the Commission for Accreditation of Birth Centers is established by AABC as an autonomous agency. A pilot program for the accreditation of 12 centers is conducted with funding from MCA. An Advisory Council to the Commission is established. Withdrawal of the liability insurance program for birth centers and nurse-midwives has serious impact on the growth of new centers and the survival of established centers. The National Birth Center Study is launched despite market ferment, with 89 centers participating.
1988 - The Office of Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services (CHAMPUS) recognizes the National Standards and the Commission for Accreditation of Freestanding Birth Centers for 100 percent reimbursement of services (Federal Register, Vol. 53, No. 78, 4/22/88). By this time, most major health insurance programs are paying for birth center services.
1989- the national birth center study was published and the conclusion reached is that, “Few innovations in health service promise lower cost, greater availability, and a high degree of satisfaction with a comparable degree of safety. The results of this study suggest that modern birth centers can identify women who are at low risk for obstetrical complications and can care for them in a way that provides these benefits. ” The most recent large-scale study of birth center outcomes done in 2013, “The Birth Center Study II” used data only from CABC-accredited birth centers nation-wide. This study also reinforced the findings from the 1989 study, demonstrating that accredited birthing centers are a safe place for low-risk women to give birth.
2000 - The DC Developing Families Center opens in Washington, DC. This center is an exciting new model of care that integrates the birth center with other essential programs such as Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies and daycare.
2020 - Birth centers continue to grow There are now more than 384 freestanding birth centers in the United States in 37 states and DC. This represents growth of 97% since 2010.