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

Vaisakhi normally would have volunteers like these women (in Surrey from a past year) preparing food ahead of the festival to be given out to the hundreds of thousands of spectactors. (Black Press Media file photo)
Greater Victoria Sikhs observe Vaisakhi virtually, but find a way to give out food

Food and taking care of those in need is a big part of Sikh teachings

Victoria police are investigating the cause of a single-vehicle crash that sent one person to hospital early April 12. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Single-vehicle crash topples Victoria hydro pole, sends one to hospital

Police investigating whether speed or impairment were factors

The District of North Saanich has issued a notice to remove this floating structure from the waters off Lillan Hoffar Park. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Boat owner ordered to vacate waters off North Saanich park

Couple have been living in floating structure off Lillian Hoffar Park for a number of years

Victoria police continue to search for wanted man Travis Moore after he evaded an arrest attempt by slipping through the bushes in Beacon Hill Park April 11. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Victoria police continue search for wanted man following failed arrest attempt

Travis Moore, 28, is a federal offender wanted Canada wide for breaching his statutory release

A few dozen students and parents gathered outside Lansdowne Middle School South Campus Monday morning to protest proposed budget cuts to SD61 music programs. From left to right: Lyra Gaudin, Cleo Bateman, Abby Farish, Brigitte Peters, Enid Gaudin, Des Farish. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Students protest proposed cuts to SD61 music programs

Proposed $1.5-million cut would hit elementary and middle school programs

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
Vancouver Island team helps make $368 million three-tonne cocaine seizure

12 members from 19 Wing Comox involved in Op Caribbe

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nootka Sound RCMP and DFO Conservation and Protection Officers seized this 30 foot vessel, fishing gear and equipment as well as Chinook salmon, salmon roe, rock fish and ling cod after an investigation on Sept. 11. A judge in Campbell River on February hit the owner and his accomplices with significant fines, a ban on holding fishing licences and loss of equpment, including the boat’s motor and trolling motor. RCMP photo
Washington State trio’s fisheries violations the worst veteran officer has seen in 20 years

Judge bans three men from fishing or holding a fishing licence anywhere in Canada

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Most Read