More Alberta women reconsidering birth plans during pandemic, midwives say

Alberta midwives say more women are choosing to give birth at home out of fear of contracting COVID-19 and because of new visitor restrictions in hospitals.

'We realized we couldn't have as much control over the environment,' new mom says

Midwife Olanrewaju Mebude holds newborn Alice Muniz. Mebude says more of her clients want to give birth at home rather than hospital over fears of COVID-19. (Submitted by Olanrewaju Mebude)

Jane Hugo and her husband Daniel, expecting their first child, had prepared for a water birth in an Edmonton hospital.

When that hospital stopped offering labour and delivery and hospitals across Alberta started restricting visitors, the couple decided to change course.

"We realized we couldn't have as much control over the environment," said Hugo, who gave birth to a baby boy in her home late Tuesday night.

Two midwives were present for the delivery, which the Hugos described as a fantastic experience.

Alberta midwives say more couples are opting for home births as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The Hugos' midwife, Olanrewaju Mebude, said 80 percent of her clients who planned to give birth in hospital are now requesting to do so at home.

Prospective parents tell her they are worried about contracting the novel coronavirus and concerned about restrictions that prevent more than one visitor from being present in hospital delivery rooms.

Mebude said she is also fielding more inquiries from expectant mothers interested in midwifery care.

"A number of them are calling and knocking at our doors," she said Thursday in an interview with CBC's Radio Active.

Chelsea Miklos, president of the Alberta Association of Midwives, said it is too soon to know how COVID-19 has affected birth plans and the demand for midwifery services, but other pandemics have been linked to surges in the number of people desiring home births.

During the SARS outbreak in 2003, for example, more women requested home births to avoid hospitals, according to a presentation in 2006 by registered midwife Tasha MacDonald.

"We're hearing the same thing from our midwives, who are out on the front lines right now," Miklos said.

Though interest in midwives could be increasing, that does not mean there will be a significant increase in midwifery services over the next few months.

"There's a maximum number of people that we can provide care for every year, based on our college guidelines," Miklos said.

After seven staff members tested positive for COVID-19 at the Foothills Medical Centre maternity ward earlier this month, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health, maintained the centre's maternity units "continue to be an appropriate place to deliver babies and receive care."

Alberta Health Services' guide on pregnancy and COVID-19 says there is no evidence to suggest pregnant women are at greater risk for complications related to COVID-19 or that the COVID-19 virus could be transmitted to a baby during pregnancy, delivery or through breast milk.

Miklos said her association has been working closely with AHS and its regulatory body, the College of Midwives of Alberta, to make sure midwives have access to personal protective equipment.

With files from Stephanie Dubois


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