Natural Childbirth: Midwives Now Deliver Babies at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin


Pregnant women interested in low-intervention childbirth under the guidance of a certified nurse midwife and within a hospital setting, now have that option at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin under a new collaboration with Austin Area Birthing Centers (Austin ABC).

Midwifery-assisted childbirth is a philosophy of care for women seeking to minimize medical intervention such as pain medication and surgery during labor and delivery.

KXAN-TV aired a Jan. 22 story about midwives at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin.


“We’re taking steps to accommodate the needs of the community of women we serve in a way that supports our reputation as one of the safest places in America to deliver a baby,” said Dr. John Gianopoulos, Ascension Seton president and CEO of Perinatal Programs and Services.

While most women select to use a midwife so that they may experience childbirth “as naturally as possible,” for some the option of a hospital is preferred or a necessary precaution, said Joan Doglio-Smith, certified nurse midwife for Austin ABC.

“This collaboration allows us to still manage pregnancies of women who prefer midwifery care and are identified at higher risk for complication or who simply feel more comfortable in a hospital environment,” Doglio-Smith said. “This also provides our birth center clients with better continuity of care.”

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Currently, four Austin ABC certified nurse midwives have privileges to admit patients directly to the Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin and then lead and manage their patients’ labor and delivery. In cases where a patient requires medical intervention, the midwife will collaborate with obstetricians/gynecologists in the Seton/UT Southwestern Graduate Medical Education Program.

“Over the past year, the Austin ABC midwives have been working well alongside our physicians,” said Gianopoulos. “Allowing them to independently manage the birthing process for low-risk deliveries was the next step in the collaboration.”

Before formally partnering with Austin ABC, Ascension Seton conducted an extensive review of the organization’s policies, procedures and safety. Gianopoulos said, “We concluded that they are an outstanding group of practitioners with excellent outcomes.”

Doglio-Smith, who initiated this collaboration, was equally as impressed with the hospital’s operations.

“Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin is committed to high quality patient care and safety, as we are. A collaboration was a natural fit,” she said.

The trend of midwife-attended deliveries is growing nationally. A recent Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health study reported that midwife-attended deliveries in the U.S. more than doubled between 1989 (3.3 percent of all births) and 2009 (8.1 percent) and has remained steady since. Not including cesarean deliveries, which midwives do not oversee, this rate jumps to 12.1 percent.

Founded in 1987 by Jean Stokes, a registered nurse and licensed midwife, Austin ABC has delivered more than 5,500 babies at two locations. It is the only birthing center in Central Texas accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers, an independent, not-for-profit organization that evaluates birthing centers based on established national standards for quality and safety. For more information, visit