A new centre for midwife-delivered births in Ottawa opened its doors Monday and is awaiting its first birth.

The Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre at 2260 Walkley Road — near St. Laurent Boulevard — is one of two midwife centres launched by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care as pilot projects. The other centre opened in Toronto.

Bedside fireplace

The birthing rooms are designed to create a relaxing, home-like environment. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

With its hardwood floors, fireplaces and birthing tubs, the centre might at first seem less like a medical centre and more like a hotel. But the warm environment is non-clinical by design, and provides the feel of a home birth while having more available resources.

Centre staff and midwifes — and not doctors and nurses — will handle the deliveries, but in the event of a medical emergency, the centre has a transfer policy in place with local hospitals and emergency services.

"We can send them to the general in case of mom, CHEO in case of baby," said executive director Wendy Grimshaw.

450 births expected a year

Genevieve Gagnon, Clinical Lead Midwife

Clinical lead midwife Genevieve Gagnon sits next to a birthing tub at the Ottawa Birth and Wellness Centre, which opened its doors Monday. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

The birth centre won't administer mothers drugs for pain nor will they accept premature or breech position babies or perform other higher-risk births. 

Grimshaw estimates midwives will assist with some 450 births a year at the centre.

All they need now is a mother-to-be, she said.

"Babies are very unpredictable, we certainly have clients ready to come in, we have two women that I know were overdue and were waiting to come in, so hopefully we'll see someone today," said Grimshaw.