Many pregnant women are worried about delivering their babies in hospital during the pandemic, and this is evident in the rise in demand for homebirths. For some it’s the fear of being exposed to the virus in the hospital, and for others it’s the limits on how many support partners and visitors they can have during their stay. These restrictions mean that women can’t have other family members or their older children present at the birth, or a doula, or a photographer. Whatever the reason you’re considering a homebirth during COVID-19, here is what you need to know.
The demand for home-birthing may be too great
Home-birthing in Australia is facilitated by a combination of private and public programs. The number of expecting women wanting to home-birth is not yet available, but a survey conducted by the Australian College of Midwives reveals that the demand cannot be met by private midwives. Some midwives are booked out well in advance, so be aware that it might not even be an option if the waiting list is too long. If you live in regional areas, it’s even more challenging as it can be difficult to source a private midwife.
Publicly-funded programs are scarce. In Victoria, for example, there are only two hospitals offering home birthing-programs. Unfortunately, the Victorian Government has no plans to expand beyond these two hospitals.
The cost for home-birthing privately is huge
If you’re not in a catchment zone for a hospital offering a publicly-funded program, the other option is to go private. However, the cost to the client is substantial, which is mostly due to the insurance costs to private midwives. Dr Megan Cooper from the Australian College of Midwives claims that some women are going to drastic lengths, such as taking out loans, maxing credit cards, and drawing out super just to afford the thousands it costs to have a homebirth.
There are safety considerations for home-birthing
If you have a healthy, straightforward pregnancy, and you’re assessed to be low-risk, you may be offered the choice to deliver your baby at home. It’s important to talk to your obstetrician or midwife about what would happen if something goes seriously wrong during labour:
- You may need to be transferred to a hospital, so be prepared for the risk that you won’t have access to specialised care at home or an epidural.
- The availability of an ambulance might also be impacted by the demand due to COVID-19.
- It’s not advised to change your birth plan or midwife late in your pregnancy, as they have been looking after you throughout, and are in the best position to continue to care for you and your baby.
To further help you reach this important decision, please read our comprehensive list of things to consider about home birth.
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