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Wyoming’s first freestanding birth center opens up in Cheyenne

 Sarah Morey and Allison Hayek, both wearing white t-shirts with Earthside's logo on them, stand in front of a white background. Sarah, who stands on the left, holds a black sign that reads "Wyoming Needs Earthside" in metallic letters.
Sarah Morey
Earthside Birth and Wellness Center
Earthside's founders, Sarah Morey (left) and Allison Hayek (right).

Earthside Birth and Wellness Center recently opened its doors in Cheyenne. The center is Wyoming’s first freestanding birth center, meaning that it isn’t attached to a hospital. It is currently taking clients for well-woman visits and will begin delivering babies on August 7.

Sarah Morey, Earthside’s CEO, said the idea came about when she and her friends realized how limited the birthing options were for Wyoming women.

“It just seemed like we were getting the same message that I've been seeing in our area for the past decade of, like, ‘there's no midwives to learn under, there's no midwifery services.”

According to Morey, midwives seek to provide more personalized care than medical settings and are utilized primarily for low-risk pregnancies. Midwifery was legalized in Wyoming over a decade ago. However, as of last August, only 26 midwives were licensed to practice in the state, Vermont, the next least populous state, has 96. This lack of options is especially notable considering Wyoming’s high rate of out-of-hospital births.

“Wyoming has almost double the national average for home births or out of hospital births, and we're kind of imagining that number would be quite [a bit] bigger, if there were more options,” said Morey. “What we were seeing was so many women, especially in Cheyenne, are leaving the state to give birth.”

Morey said those women often go to birth centers in Fort Collins or Denver due to the lack of choices in Cheyenne, which is in part due to the specific challenges Wyoming poses for midwives.

Midwives quickly get “burned out because suddenly they're covering hundreds of square miles…I worked with a homebirth midwife who is out of Laramie, and she might have a Rawlins client and a Wheatland client and driving all of these places.”

Morey and co-founder Allison Hayek hope Earthside can provide a more sustainable alternative, for both midwives and clients. “Regardless of how long I manage a birth center, or what midwives come and go, it's still always going to be there,” Morey said.

She hopes that Earthside will help keep more Wyomingites in state for their deliveries.

Aside from midwifery services, Morey and Hayek also plan for Earthside to be a community center, offering classes on pregnancy and childbirth-related topics to those in Cheyenne.

The center is currently operating within proximity to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center. Earthside is utilizing a one-room space, which allows it to legally operate without a license for the time being. However, Morey said the center is in talks to move into a larger space in downtown Cheyenne, which would allow them to become licensed within the next year.

Earthside will become the first birth center in Wyoming to undergo the licensing process.

Suraj Singareddy is originally from Atlanta, GA, and is a rising junior at Yale University. He's currently an English major with a minor in computer science. He also helps run the Yale Daily News' podcast department, writes for a science-fiction magazine called Cortex, and likes to do different theatre-y stuff around campus. He also loves to read comics and graphic novels in his free time, and is always looking for book recommendations!
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