Updated: Jun 24
“I feel like, by considering a home birth,
I’m taking out the unknown of what
the coronavirus can do to our society, and
it gives me the comfort of having some control.”
“Not only that, I just feel like the resources are getting
pretty limited and a lot of people need help.
If I have a healthy, low-risk pregnancy,
why not give space for someone who doesn’t?”
“Hospitals are suddenly not seemingly the “safest” places to birth that they were just weeks ago." - Verana Faye, Doula
"If you are due this spring/summer (and perhaps maybe into this fall), you may have given some thought to birthing outside a hospital. Restrictions are being put in place, hospital resources are being stretched thin, and you and your family are at greater risk for contracting and spreading the Coronavirus in a hospital." - Marta Barensfeld, Doula
“We’re now hearing from increasing numbers of women who are reporting that hospitals are largely prohibiting partners, husbands, and family members from accompanying women into the birth room… And, most disturbingly, mothers are being separated from their babies after birth…
Human beings are deeply social, tactile, somatic, electrical, resonant beings. We require physical contact with each other in order to be whole. Mothers and babies are interdependent. The chemical, energetic, emotional, microbial, and electrical exchanges that happen between a woman and her newborn when they’re in that sort of visceral communication of the first few hours of birth (or the first few days) are absolutely crucial in establishing the very connections that keep us safe, that ensure our survival."
- Yolande Norris-Clark, Birth Attendent
When choosing where you want to give birth, risk is probably one of the first thing on peoples’ mind. But when hospitals are beginning to overflow with people (potentially) carrying the Coronavirus, birthing at home might just be the safest option for many expecting parents.
IS HOME BIRTH REALLY SAFE?
On one hand, birth always carries some amount risk no matter the location. On the other hand, we wouldn’t be here today as a species if our bodies weren’t designed so well for birth.
“Home birth is much more common in Europe. And the largest study on planned home birth was done in The Netherlands. Researchers looked at over 500,000 births and compared outcomes at home and in the hospital. They found no difference in infant death rates.” - Why Not Home? Documentary
For a healthy mom and baby, there is a very low risk of serious complications in home birth. Research shows that, when you feel safe and do not interrupt the natural birth process, it tends to work smoothly. 89.1% of people who plan for a homebirth are successful. For the roughly 21% of people who end up transferring from home to hospital, the most common reasons are for extremely long or stalled labor rather than an emergency. The rate of infant mortality in home births is around 0.17% and maternal mortality even less. In hospitals, the infant mortality rate is closer to 0.59% and maternal mortality rate closer to 0.2%.
If you want to assess some of the possible risks, check out the list on Skeptics Guide to Home Birth.
WHAT IF I WAS PLANNING TO HAVE PAIN MEDICATION?
If you are considering home birth but feeling fearful or apprehensive about coping with pain, here are some tools. (You can use most of these in a hospital too!):
Hire a doula - studies show that people experience less pain with a doula present during their birth
Practice massage techniques with your partner - most people like firm pressure but some prefer light touch massage (both of these techniques cause the body to release endorphins, which is our own natural pain relief!)
Practice counter pressure with your partner
Practice rebozo techniques (you can also use any long scarf as long as it’s not stretchy!)
Practice breathing techniques
Find your rhythm
Explore different positions that feel good such as side-lying with pillows for support, walking, leaning over furniture or an exercise ball, squatting, or slow-dancing with your partner
Get in the bath tub or shower (and stay there as long as you need)
Buy a TENS machine - this can create a “second pain” or distraction for your brain so birth sensations are dampened
Listen to birth meditations (maybe include a fear release one)
Create a playlist of music that feels really good - here’s the one I listened to through my entire birth: Shamanic Meditation Binaural Beats
Take a virtual childbirth class to understand how your body and baby are working together in birth
Stay hydrated and nourish yourself with healthy food
Use essentials oils or your favorite scented spray to help you relax
Dim the lights and create a cozy environment
Work on your mindset - Pain is a normal and healthy part of labor. See if you can welcome it in mentally while using the above techniques.
CAN I STILL HAVE A MEDICAL CARE PROVIDER PRESENT?
Many home birth midwives are accepting new clients during this time. (Though not many are covered under health insurance plans, many of them offer sliding scale and payment plans.)
Most midwives are certified or licensed medical professionals. In most high-resource countries most people would be receiving midwifery care, and research shows this reduces the need for interventions in birth. Midwives are well-equipped to keep you safe while birthing at home. The vast majority of the time, when midwives see a complication, they can correct it early. And if they can't, there is enough time to get to the hospital. They also focus on supporting your psychological, social, spiritual, community, cultural, and mind-body connection in pregnancy and birth. Midwifery care is highly individualized, centered on the needs of each family. Prenatal appointments are generally longer, covering a large range of topics like nutrition, self-care, exercise, mental and psychological preparation for birth.
Check out this podcast: All About Midwives
Want to know what supplies midwives bring to your birth? Click here
If you’d like to start looking for a midwife, please reach out to me
or your area’s doula community to receive a local list of midwives.
CHOOSING TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL
If you’d still feel more comfortable being at a hospital to birth your baby, that is a perfectly valid choice. Remember that you are in charge of your birth choices and you can always ask questions to be able to make your choice confidently. And you can always request a nurse who supports your birth wishes. Here’s an easy acronym for advocating for yourself: Use your BRAINS!
B - What are the benefits?
R - What are the risks?
A - What are the alternatives?
I - What does my instinct tell me? Or is there more information?
N - What if we were to do nothing?
S - Can we have some space to talk about our next steps?
Noah’s Gentle Birth (birth video to use for visualization)
Birthful Podcast Episode #11 - Why an obstetrician chose a home birth
Healthy Births, Happy Babies Podcast Episode #60 - Pregnancy is NOT a Disease that Needs to be Treated Medically
Healthy Births, Happy Babies Podcast Episode #63 - The Beauty of Waterbirth
Youtube video: Midwifery and Coronavirus