We have all heard about those "quarantine" due dates. Babies who were conceived during
the Covid shutdowns began making their way into the world in late February 2021 and are continuing into May and June.
Google reports a 300% increase in searches for the word "midwife," but why is the demand higher even after the original rush has almost ended?
Many hospitals have placed restrictions on women in labor. Some hospitals did not allow any support persons to accompany the mom, including the father of the baby, and most required mask in labor and restricted the mother to her room.
Currently, local hospitals are allowing the father to attend a hospital birth. Some even allow a doula, but most still have mask mandates and isolate the mother to the birth room. While these restrictions may seem like a small price to pay, in labor they become huge obstacles.
Natural birth is hard and women need to be free to walk and move. Even normal hospital procedures such as mandatory IV's and prolonged fetal monitoring have traditionally been difficult for women desiring a non-medicated birth so these additional restrictions make natural childbirth nearly impossible.
The mask alone are uncomfortable enough to interfere with a woman's ability to cope with pain, not to mention the reduction in oxygen to both the mother and the baby. For many of these women, the exodus from the hospital was an easy transition.
As many as 20% of women attempt to have their babies without pain medications even in the hospital. Many of those women had previously considered using an independent midwife or having a waterbirth, but may have chosen to deliver at the hospital because of the cost. Insurance companies are often hesitant to cover midwifery services, so these families could be responsible for 100% of the cost for midwifery services. However; with the threat of Covid, the cost became a secondary obstacle.
The threat of contracting Covid was a true fear for many families since a newborn and a postpartum woman already have compromised immune systems. Pregnant women are not considered to be sick and it has long been recognized that they should not be sharing space within a sick facility. Hospital-acquired infections increase the risk of death and disease, and add to the cost of care and the duration of stay in a hospital.
Since birth centers are small, there is seldom any ability for cross contamination to occur. Most women will find that they are usually the only person in labor at a birth center and these facilities would never host sick patients.
Is the introduction of a vaccine slowing the growth of midwifery use? Apparently, it is not. Instead, mothers are voicing their concerns about exposure to these vaccinations and to those who have been vaccinated.
Naturally-minded moms acknowledge that the effects of the Covid shots have not been completely tested for use during pregnancy and it will be many years before we will be able to identify any long-term effects. Since independent midwives are more likely to leave all forms of immunizations up to the decision of the parents; families continue to seek this environment for the birth of their baby.
While Birth Center care with an independent midwife has always been an excellent option for most healthy women, Covid exposure and hospital policy restrictions have shed a new light onto alternative birth options. Hopefully, the families that used these services for the first time because of Covid will continue to use this service for future pregnancies and recommend it to their friends.
As the demand for midwives continues to rise it should draw new midwives into the field. South Carolina and other states have many underserved areas that could
benefit from more midwives. Although it would take a lot of growth, perhaps we will be able to eventually effect the state’s high maternal and newborn morbidity rates as more women are able to find pregnancy services outside of the traditional hospital setting.