As new cases of COVID-19 show up across the nation, some pregnant women are reconsidering their birth options.
There is still a lot of unknown about the virus and that is causing some anxiety for soon-to-be parents. Many hospitals are also now restricting how many visitors are allowed as a precaution.
Ryann Morales, a home birth midwife and the owner Del Ray Birth Collective, said she's been seeing a big increase in pregnant women looking into giving birth at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Where I usually talk to three people in a month about having a home birth, I'm talking to three people a day," Morales said. "They have a lot of concerns about the unknowns."
Morales said a home birth is only for people who are healthy and low-risk. She said she believe “people should always give birth where they feel safest."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health officials do not currently know if pregnant women have a greater chance of getting sick from COVID-19 than the general public.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states, "Research is currently underway to understand the impacts of COVID 19 infection on pregnant women. Data are limited, but at present there is no evidence that they are at higher risk of severe illness than the general population."
The CDC also does not know if a pregnant women with COVID-19 can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy or delivery.
The CDC website states, "No infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. In these cases, which are a small number, the virus was not found in samples of amniotic fluid or breast milk.”
Midwives, like Morales, noted another reason people are considering a home birth is because hospitals are placing restrictions on how many visitors can be there.
Many local hospitals are now limiting the number of visitors allowed to one, sometimes two people.
One hospital in New York is banning all visitors, including partners, from the delivery room.
According to WHO, “All pregnant woman, including those who have confirmed suspected COVID-19 infections, have the right to high quality care before, during and after childbirth.”
WHO continues to advise that a “safe and positive childbirth experience” includes "having a companion of choice present during delivery."
“People have a lot of concerns about their hospital birth plans, that they are not going to be able to have their partner and their doula, or their partner and their mothers, and they’re having to make some hard choices,” Morales said. “Whereas at home, if everyone is healthy and takes good precautions, you can choose who is at the birth.”
Emily Smith, the owner of Doulas of Capitol Hill and Doulas of PG County, said she has already had clients who have had to make those decisions because some hospitals are considering doulas as visitors.
“We have had to take creative action for what would have been birth day support, to postpartum support.” Smith said. “We have a lot of families who expected grandma or grandpa to come and help out after the baby comes home from the hospital and now, they’re reaching out for daytime and overnight support.”
Morales said she thinks midwives are seeing the significant uptick in pregnant women considering a home birth because people “are not sure what is going to happen, and they want the option of making the last-minute decision.”
Smith would agree.
“I think people are in that zone where they are not sure what the future holds, and they are just trying to be informed and have options,” Smith said.
A spokesperson for MedStar Health said hospitals are following all CDC and Department of Health guidelines and will continue to care for labor and delivery patients through this pandemic.
"We remain in a constant state of readiness to protect all patients, including pregnant patients. Our doctors do not advise home births,” MedStar Health said in a statement.
“I think it’s worth exploring all your options, I think it’s worth asking honest questions to care providers and hospitals and getting honest answers,” Morales said.
When talking with pregnant women about their options, Smith said doulas like to use the acronym “BRAIN.”
“What are your benefits, what are your risks, what are your alternatives, what does your intuition say and what if you do nothing,” Smith said.