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

Pictured left to right: Tyrone McDonald, Fire Chief Jamie Wilkinson, General Manager of Community & Protective Services Paul Edginton, Uwe Kurth (ASFA), City Manager Sue Howard, Deputy Fire Chief Alex Plant, Mayor Tyler Gandam. Photo/ City of Wetaskiwin.
City of Wetaskiwin Fire Services sends gear to firefighters in Paraguay

Former City of Wetaskiwin Fire Services member spearheading this initiative.

Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported an additional 456 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

Black Press file photo
Leduc RCMP arrest male for multiple break and enters and theft

34-year-old Michael Gilchrist has been arrested for his involvement in the thefts.

25-year-old Rachelle Okrusko has been missing since Jan. 12, 2021. Photo provided by Wetaskiwin RCMP.
Update: Wetaskiwin RCMP looking for missing woman; Rachelle Okrusko is no longer missing.

25-year-old Rachelle Okrusko has been missing since Jan. 12, 2021.

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. Public opposition to the Alberta government’s plans to expand coal mining in the Rocky Mountains appears to be growing. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File
Alberta cancels coal leases, pauses future sales, as opposition increases

New Democrat environment critic Marlin Schmidt welcomed the suspension

In this March 28, 2017, file photo, a dump truck hauls coal at Contura Energy’s Eagle Butte Mine near Gillette, Wyo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mead Gruver, File)
First Nations seek to intervene in court challenge of coal policy removal

Bearspaw, Ermineskin and Whitefish First Nations are among those looking to intervene

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Canada’s pitch to the Biden team has framed Keystone XL as a more environmentally friendly project than original

Central Alberta’s Catherine Hayreceived a letter from the Government of Canada recently stating she had to repay the government. Photo submitted
Central Albertan asked to repay CERB amount

Catherine Hay says she received a letter in November saying she had to completely repay the benefit

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
No Pfizer vaccines arriving in Canada next week; feds still expect 4M doses by end of March

More cases of U.K. variant, South African variant found in Canada

Health-care workers wait in line at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canadians who have had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, experts say

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were found to have a 95 per cent efficacy

An empty Peel and Sainte-Catherine street is shown in Montreal, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Poll finds strong support for COVID-19 curfews despite doubts about effectiveness

The poll suggests 59 per cent remain somewhat or very afraid of contracting COVID-19

Lacombe is looking at its options for reclaiming sewage lagoons that are no longer needed. Vesta Energy Ltd. has signed a deal to use three lagoons to store water for fracking.
Map from City of Lacombe
Energy company to use former Lacombe sewage lagoons to store water for fracking

Vesta Energy Ltd. will pay Lacombe more than $100,000 a year in 20-year deal

Most Read