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

442 Transport and Rescue Squadron from 19 Wing Comox assisted in helping an injured hiker down from the top of Mt. Benson near Nanaimo Jan. 23. Photo by 19 Wing Comox
With video: 442 Squadron assists mid-Island mountain rescue

The crew on the Buffalo hand-launched 15 flares

Local musician and artist Daisy Melville created a watercolour portrait of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders from the recent American inauguration, and with help from her mom, is now selling t-shirts and more with funds going to the Comox Valley Food Bank. Image submitted
Comox Valley artist turns Sanders inauguration meme into art for good

All proceeds from the sale of shirts, sweaters and more will go to the Comox Valley Food Bank

Comox Valley medical clinics are all open, including the availability to book face-to-face care (i.e. for a physical examination) as per your clinic’s protocol (most clinics operate a “virtual care first” policy). ADOBE STOCK IMAGE
Comox Valley doctors offer answers to local COVID health care questions

Public service announcement submitted by the Comox Valley Division of Family Practice

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Artist Jim Holyoak’s installation “Quagmire.” Holyoak will be the first speaker for the Artist Talk Online Winter 2021 series. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College Artist Talk goes online for winter 2021

The series invites contemporary Canadian artists to speak about their professional practice

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Residents of the Cowichan Valley decorated more than 55 vehicles with anti-racist slogans for a car rally in support of Cowichan Tribes on Saturday, January 24. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Dozens join anti-racism car rally and virtual panel in Cowichan Valley

Provincial ministry and BC Green caucus issue joint statement detailing concerns

Jesse Savidant, 31, is wanted by the RCMP after failing to appear in provincial court in Nanaimo in December. Police warn Savidant should be considered violent. (Photo Submitted)
Warrant out for man accused of stolen property offences across Vancouver Island

Jesse Savidant did not appear for court date in Nanaimo last month, say RCMP

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
2nd COVID vaccine doses on hold as B.C. delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is urging visitors to stay on designated trails after a hiker became injured in an unsanctioned area last week. (Westerly file photo)
Injured hiker rescued in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

Most Read