Denver Newsroom, Jun 23, 2020 / 05:40 pm (CNA).- As hospitals continue to treat patients with COVID-19, many expectant women worry about exposing themselves and their babies to the virus while giving birth. Their concern has led to a surge in demand for at-home births, according to some midwives.
In 2018, about one percent of births occurred at home, according to a CDC study. That figure has been on the rise since 2004, according to a study published in the journal Birth, which reported that the figure for at-home births increased by 77% between 2004 and 2017. The study found that the increase may be due to increased coverage of home births by insurance.
But the surge in demand for home births during recent months is unprecedented, Catholic midwives told CNA.
Catholic midwife Tiara Rodgers, whose practice, Modern Miracle Birth serves women in central Texas, says she has seen demand for her services double.
“Because of covid, a lot of women and families are finding themselves considering home birth when they would've never thought otherwise to consider home birth,” Rodgers told CNA. “Midwives are busier than ever right now.”
Midwives, who are the traditional form of obstetrics in many countries, are licensed from the American Midwifery Certification Board or the North American registry of midwives. The United States also recognizes midwives who obtain a graduate degree after completing a nursing program.
In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized the value of midwives in a report, which stated that properly trained midwives could prevent 80% of deaths associated with childbirth, especially in developing nations. The WHO hopes to develop midwifery programs in both third-world and first-world countries by 2030.
Midwives are trained to deliver babies in low-risk pregnancies, often with the help of a doula, who offers emotional support for women during the birth itself. If a risk-factor develops during the pregnancy, midwives bring women to a hospital for further care. That, said Rodgers, will not change even in a pandemic.
Because of the virus, Rodgers said that women are doing their own research into home birth as a viable alternative to hospital care. And they are finding that for low-risk pregnancies, the outcomes are very good.
“Some moms who are due in a couple of weeks are calling us up and saying ‘do you have room for me? I’m 37 weeks… and I really don’t want to birth in a hospital,’” said Rodgers.
One mother contacted Modern Miracle Birth 38 weeks into her pregnancy. She was afraid of going to the hospital, although she admitted that she knew nothing about having a baby at home.
But after meeting Rodgers, she trusted her team and decided to have her baby at home. She gave birth to a nine-pound baby boy in her bathtub.
“You could see the fear melt away. That was really, really beautiful, because it was not what she expected at all,” said Rodgers.
Tracy Santangelo, a midwife whose practice, BirthPointe, serves the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said that she had to turn away seven or eight women every week at the peak of the pandemic.
“People are willing to do a lot to make sure that their birth desires are really something that they can be attained and will be respected,” Santangelo said.
But she could not get the supplies she needed to accept extra clients, although she went to great lengths to obtain supplies. She even bought a face shield from a Chinese food restaurant supplier.
“People were very panicked,” Santangelo said. Most of the women who called her were already late in their pregnancies. “I don’t know if they found somebody or not.”
Women are particularly concerned about a policy, implemented in many hospitals around the nation, that bars family members from being present at birth.
“They can’t even have their children come in to meet the new sibling,” said Santangelo. “And for me, this is really, by far, my favorite part of the birth.”
Santangelo said that one of her clients, a first-time mother, plans to give birth in a hotel room in order to allow her family to be present but also to be close to the hospital. It’s actually something Santangelo has done before.
Women’s concerns about not having family present at a birth go beyond sentimentality. Rodgers explained that in the case of a medical emergency, a husband makes decisions on behalf of his wife, if she is unable to do so.
“The woman doesn't have anyone to advocate for her,” if the husband is not present, said Rodgers. “If she has to have an emergency c-section, there’s nobody there to consent for her if she can’t consent for herself. So that is a big issue.”
Although many women did not plan to deliver their babies at home, Rodgers said that many say they end up preferring at-home births over hospital births.
“We’re seeing people have these wonderful birth outcomes, that are saying, I want to do this again. There’s no way I’d go back to the medical model of care,” said Rodgers.
As Catholic midwives, Rodgers and Santangelo serve women of all faiths with an understanding that birth is both physical and spiritual.
“It really is an opportunity to show people the grace that a woman of faith can give someone else,” said Santangelo. She has the opportunity to connect with the Catholic mothers she serves on matters of faith, but has also found that non-Catholic mothers are often looking for a sympathetic ear.
“To come from a non-judgmental place and to truly serve women because that’s the gift that God gave you, that’s my greatest joy,” she said.
“We are made body, mind and spirit by the Lord,” said Rodgers. “If you cut out one of those… then you will be missing part of the puzzle piece to caring and giving this mom and baby the best care possible.”