1. Their midwives are not state licensed
This is despite the claim on their Website. You can check here (click “verify a license”). I alerted better birth and the state licensing board of their claim and both said it was resolved, but when I visited the website again it still claimed all their midwives were state licensed. The only difference was that better birth no longer linked to the licensing board so it is more difficult for potential patients to check for a license. I have screen captures of the website before and after my complaints to evidence this as well as 2 different documented incidences of Better Birth being informed that they are claiming to be licensed when they are not. The state lists claiming to be licensed without a license is listed as Unlawful Conduct according to utah state code.
UPDATE 5/9/13: they have finally fixed their website, but not their contracts. Here is a picture of their website before my complaint. Here is a picture of their website after my complaint to the licensing board was supposedly “resolved” on 4/27/13.
Utah is a voluntary licensing state- so some people may wonder why this is a big deal. For one, Better Birth lists the licensing board as a remedy in case of unprofessional behavior when it isn’t really true. You can’t report an unlicensed midwife to the licensing board. They should be more honest and tell people that they basically have no recourse outside of lawyers if their midwife treats them unethically or illegally.
2. The Utah Midwives Association can’t help you either
Their website hasn’t been updated in over a year, the email is broken, and the phone number leads to a very annoyed man who has nothing to do with their organization. The care contract at better birth also lists them as a remedy if you are mistreated, but no one is there to help.
UPDATE 7/1/13 After emailing some random people I found out that they do still exist under a different name, but they only have a facebook page as their website. They said they are going to do a review with Ester but I don’t know if that actually means that there will be repercussions or what. They may not be able to track her down since she left better birth.
3. Better Birth is happy to charge for services they have never provided
Part of better births unethical “no refunds, ever” policy is that they will charge for services they never provided. I felt that no refunds after labor was reasonable when they explained it- after all, how do you prorate a partial labor attendance? Too bad the labor attendance fee isn’t the only thing they refuse to refund once you go into labor. I wish I had thought more about it though, because part of their fee included things like vitamin K shots for infants, or PKU testing for a baby, post-partum rhogam, etc. What kind of people are happy to charge for things they never gave? Only the cravenly dishonest.
A check has mysteriously arrived the other day for the baby services I never received. Months and months after this all happened. From the other reviews I’ve seen from people who delivered outside the birth center, the refund I’ve seen doesn’t appear to be the standard policy. Along with the check (which doesn’t even cover the therapy I needed from going to better birth) I got a letter that plainly stated they were refunding the cost of vitamin k shots, rhogam, pku testing, etc. Its in the hundreds of dollars range. No apology, of course. I have no idea if this is an effort to placate me or appear more fair or what, but this isn’t much considering that they caused my PTSD (a permanent condition) and still, you know, charged me for getting molested at their birth center. I am also angry that I’ve had to spend hours of my personal time publicizing my ordeal (which is personal, and that I would prefer not to share) in order to get a small portion of my own money back. Be warned- this is what you have to go through to get your own money back. You have to make it worth their while (unless there is some kind of policy change, the letter did not say that there would be).
4. Their no refund policy is extremely unethical
The policy is “no refunds after labor has started”- well guess who is in charge of judging when labor has started? I was told I was in labor, signed the no refunds form, only to be told that I wasn’t in labor 12 hours later. I was in labor enough to pay them but not enough for them to help me, apparently. The owner (suzanne smith, LDEM/CPM) and Ester Werbach were both present at the time that I was told I wasn’t in labor after making me sign over my right to a refund on the condition of being in labor. What a wonderful way to remember my child’s birthday, being scammed out of my money.
Labor is an extremely vulnerable time in a woman’s life. She doesn’t need the threat of financial ruin held over her head while dealing with terrible treatment from Better Birth. Many women go there because they don’t have a ton of money to throw around and the business claims such great statistics. Women should be free to go to a hospital without being punished by Better Birth. It became clear to me during my labor that Better Birth already had my money so they didn’t care how I felt or if I was treated well. I (foolishly) trusted everyone there to provide the services they promised me in person and on their website so the ethical implications of a no refunds policy wasn’t something I fully considered.
5. Suzanne Smith (the owner, LDEM) has connections to the Utah Midwives College, so they won’t help you either.
A student was there and charting when I was abused at Better Birth. I let the college know and they just assured me they were sure Suzanne was “reviewing the culture” there, despite my providing emails that demonstrated that Suzanne Smith felt nothing wrong had happened, much less needed correction. I looked into it later and it turns out she used to teach there.
6. They will quote you different statistics on transfers depending on who you are
According to a news article I found about better birth the transfer rate is 10%. Why did they tell me 4% when I signed up then? Why don’t they publish their statistics on their website?