Casey Templeton photo
After finishing nursing school at the University of Maryland, Nancy Giglio decided to take her medical interests abroad. She was accepted into the Peace Corps and worked with midwives in Northern India from 1968 to 1970.
Upon her return, Giglio enrolled in the University of New York's certified midwifery program, graduating in 1972, when using midwives and home births were viewed by many as risky. Determined to pursue her passion for home births and to make them a viable option for women, Giglio moved to Richmond in 1982. With 10 years of experience under her belt, Giglio was employed by a local obstetrician, and began offering home births as a safe alternative. At the time, Giglio was one of only two certified-nurse midwives in the Richmond area.
"People stereotype home births as a hippie [trend]. ... But it's a very diverse group of people," Giglio says, adding that she currently delivers babies for a very eclectic group of mothers, from teenage girls to women in their 40s. "I do not think the statement is that home births are better … [I am just] providing it as a safe choice."
Giglio has delivered about 1,500 babies through home births over the past 27 years and established her private practice, Richmond Birth Services, in 1992. But Giglio says that her influence grew through a steady dedication to provide thorough, safe health care to the women who desire to give birth at home, one case at a time.
Giglio says home births have gradually gained a good reputation, due to a variety of factors, including the Richmond Home Birth Circle. Formed from a 1982 support group created by Giglio and other physicians, the Richmond Birth Circle is a monthly group that educates and supports women considering home births. Giglio also trained young nurses at Henrico Doctors' and saw a branch of Birth Matters Virginia open in Richmond, a nonprofit group supporting mother's choices for childbirth. But Giglio says Ricki Lake's 2008 film, The Business of Being Born, which spotlights home births, really ignited interest; Giglio says the Richmond Birth Circle participated in a well-attended viewing of the film with a panel discussion that followed.
Giglio says her mission is not to market home births. She considers them a constant privilege. "My passion came from my own birthing experiences," she says. "I had four children, all at home." Giglio works one-on-one with each mother, providing neonatal care and watching mothers reach new levels of personal development. "I feel really strongly about facilitating personal growth," she says. "I see a woman from her first baby to her fifth baby become a whole new person." Giglio adds that some of the mothers she works with have decided to become midwives or doulas.
Currently one of eight practicing certified-nurse midwives in Richmond, Giglio collaborates with a local physician, receiving assistance from Henrico Doctors' Hospital in the case of a complication. Yet Giglio has discovered that hospital transport is rarely necessary. "You go into it watching and trusting. I go into it expecting it to be normal. If a problem comes up, then you deal with it." She adds that 95 percent of her deliveries are conducted smoothly within the intimate setting of her patient's home.
"My specialty is natural pregnancy and childbirth and helping women find their way to that natural birth," Giglio says. "I feel incredibly lucky to do this."