Midwife practice requests permit to locate in historic Coit House

Nov 20, 2018

Buffalo's oldest home is going to become a center for an even older tradition, women giving birth in the home.

It's up to the Common Council on Tuesday to decide on a recommendation from the Legislation Committee Monday to install a midwifery in the Coit House, near Elmwood Avenue and Virginia Street. It's probably the city's oldest home, originally built in 1815 at Pearl and Swan streets and later moved to its current location.

Nurse midwife Maura Winkler plans to move her Fika Midwifery into the building, if City Hall approves. She does not plan major renovations, planning to use it only for her Midwife practice.

"They're not turning the Coit House into a birth center, in any way, because birth centers in New York State are regulated by Article 28. That also regulates hospitals," Winkler said. "So it would put a lot of restrictions in place. It would make it either impossible or we would have to ruin the historic character of the Coit house, which of course we would never do."

The State Education Department says there are 27 midwives in Erie County, most in some local hospitals. Winkler said she runs the only local practice that will be out of a home and manage a birth up to an hour away from Buffalo.

"We screen our clients very carefully for out-of-hospital births," said Winkler. "So the women who are seeking to give birth out of the hospital are perfect. They are low risk. They are healthy. They have had no problems with their pregnancy. We're not seeing problems during the labor, once it starts. If we do see a problem, we prefer to transfer them to the hospital when we notice that problem in labor. We don't want it to go too far."

Winkler said she and her staff will go as far as an hour away to handle an at-home birth. Overall, she expects her firm to do 8-10 births a month, some in the Coit House.

"It's really not any different than clients choosing home birth in their own homes and there are women who, for whatever reason, maybe their home isn't suitable. They live with their in-laws. They have a lot of pets. Things like that," she said. "They just don't want to give birth at home and they will go other places to give birth. People have done it in hotels. Not in our practice, but it is something that happens."

This is an adaptive use permit from the Planning Board, recommended to the Council. It does not become permanent with the building.