New mother Madeleine Shaw shares a moment with her son George Shaw-Macdonald while at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, December 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

New mother Madeleine Shaw shares a moment with her son George Shaw-Macdonald while at Beacon Hill Park in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, December 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

COVID-19 fears spark increased interest in home births, midwives say

One thing still unclear is whether Canada will experience a baby boom or baby bust due to COVID-19

Fear of contracting COVID-19 in hospitals or doctors’ offices has prompted some moms-to-be to choose to take on midwives and have their babies at home, midwifery groups say.

A recent survey and reports from midwifery practices indicate that a pronounced uptick in women interested in home births began as the pandemic took hold in the spring.

One of them was Madeleine Shaw, of Victoria, who was 34 weeks pregnant in March and on track to have her baby in hospital with a doctor assisting. However, the prospect of contracting COVID-19 prompted a relatively last-minute switch to a home birth.

“Birth and certainly your first time is already something riddled with unknowns and anxieties for lots of people, and to put a pandemic on top of it was the icing on the cake,” Shaw said. “It’s scary now but it was really frightening then, because we knew so little at the time.”

Shaw, it appears, was not alone in her concerns.

In a survey of its members last month, the Midwives Association of B.C. found 89 per cent of those responding reported more women asking about the home birth option between March and November compared to inquiries made before that period.

Almost 40 per cent described the increased interest in homebirths as moderate or large.

In Ontario, a similar pattern emerged, said Jasmin Tecson, president of the Ontario Association of Midwives. Reports from across the province indicate more interest in both midwifery services and having babies in a non-hospital setting, she said.

“We have noticed a distinct increase in people choosing home or birth centre instead of hospital,” said Tecson, who has a midwifery practice in Toronto. “Practices on average, anecdotally, are reporting a planned (non-hospital birth) rate that’s roughly double.”

There’s little doubt, she said, the uptick has been related to COVID-19 fears, and the spike has been noted in the newly pregnant as well as among later-stage pregnancies.

Shaw, now 34, said another concern was that she would end up with little support in hospital given anti-pandemic limits on visitors and attendants. Having her baby, George, at home allowed her husband, doula, and midwives to be on hand for what turned out to be an “ideal” birth in late April, she said.

READ MORE: Abbotsford mom with COVID-19 who gave birth while in coma finally meets her newborn son

Women choosing the midwife route are also keen to access pre- and postnatal care without having to venture out to doctors’ offices or hospitals for routine checkups and assessments, Tecson said. New moms are particularly reluctant to venture out in to the “bigger COVID-19 world” with a newborn, she said.

“The perception from the public is that if you don’t have to go out into the world, especially with a brand new baby, they’d clearly rather not.”

Shaw, a director with the provincial public service, agreed, saying it was a huge bonus to have midwives come to her home both before and after George was born.

One thing still unclear is whether Canada will experience a baby boom or baby bust due to COVID-19. Shoppers Drug Mart said sales of home pregnancy test kits have risen but refused to provide details.

From her vantage, point, Tecson said pregnancy rates themselves have not changed much.

“A lot of people thought there would be a lot of COVID-related pregnancies because of people snuggling up at home due to lockdown,” she said. “We haven’t seen that.”

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and vacation bookings are being increased in B.C. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. announces signage along Alberta border to discourage non-essential travel

B.C. extends COVID-19 indoor dining, group fitness ban until May 25

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Alberta begins rolling out AstraZeneca COVID vaccine for those aged 40 or older

There are more than 70 pharmacies offering AstraZeneca, including 26 offering walk-in appointments

A child writes in their school notebook during a home schooling session in Cremona, Alta., Monday, March 23, 2020, amid the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of students in Calgary will shift to online learning as of today in a bid to curb rising COVID-19 infection rates in the city. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Online classes begin for some Alberta students amid rising COVID-19 cases

Alberta currently has the highest rate of active COVID-19 cases in the country

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

sign
Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

The Rogers logo is photographed in Toronto on Monday, September 30, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Rogers investigating after wireless customers complain of widespread outage

According to Down Detector, problems are being reported in most major Canadian cities

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Nothing stopping provinces from offering AstraZeneca vaccine to all adults: Hajdu

Health Canada has licensed the AstraZeneca shot for use in people over the age of 18

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday December 8, 2020 in Ottawa. The stage is set for arguably the most important federal budget in recent memory, as the Liberal government prepares to unveil its plan for Canada’s post-pandemic recovery even as a third wave of COVID-19 rages across the country. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Election reticence expected to temper political battle over federal budget

Opposition parties have laid out their own demands in the weeks leading up to the budget

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

Most Read