More and more women are opting for home births under lockdown

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More and more women are opting for home births under lockdown

They cite factors such as not being able to have their partners with them, and worries about burdening hospitals

Senior reporter
Lena Visagie was born at home on April 11 to Aileen and JJ, with the assistance of midwife Debby Engelbrecht.
Safe houses Lena Visagie was born at home on April 11 to Aileen and JJ, with the assistance of midwife Debby Engelbrecht.
Image: Supplied

Jessica Teekman was set for the birth of her first child in a private hospital next month. Then the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

Unable to have her trusted doula, a trained non-medical professional who provides support to women before, during and after childbirth, by her side during the delivery because of hospital regulations to contain the spread of the virus, Teekman has chosen the home-birth route.

​The 25-year-old Western Cape mom-to-be is among a growing number of women opting to give birth at home instead of in hospital.

Lana Peterson, of Home Birth SA, which offers information, education and community support for home births, said they had received an average of six inquiries a day in the past month.  

In Durban last week, a woman who tested positive for Covid-19 when she was admitted at Ahmed Al-Kadi Private Hospital for the delivery of her baby, gave birth to a child who tested positive for the virus.

“Most of the concerns voiced by mothers switching to home births is the exclusion of their support partners during labour, imposed in all hospitals. They may no longer be accompanied by their doulas or other, additional, support persons.

“There is concern about the increased potential risk of being exposed to the virus by default of being in hospital,” said Peterson.

Mum-to-be Jessica Teekman has opted for a homebirth.
a different kind of home delivery Mum-to-be Jessica Teekman has opted for a homebirth.
Image: Supplied

She said mothers-to-be also voiced concerns about “hospital staff not being able to provide adequate care when their capacity caring for Covid-19 cases has increased”.

“The main thing for us was that it was no longer possible to bring our doula to the hospital with us.

“We’d planned and thought of the birth with her present, and this could no longer happen.

“It also made us nervous about whether my husband would still be allowed to be present for the birth.

“These uncertainties, together with the fact that you would expect the hospital to be a place where you’d be more likely to be exposed to the virus, made us feel less and less comfortable with our initial decision,” said Teekman.

She learnt about home births at her birthing class and decided to explore that avenue.

“It was difficult at first. We had a good experience with our gynaecologist and liked our journey with her, but going with a home birth would mean we would need to part ways with her for this pregnancy and start afresh with midwives.

“For me, home birth came with some fears, which I had to work through and let go of.”

Most of the concerns voiced by mothers switching to home births is the exclusion of their support partners during labour, imposed in all hospitals.
Lana Peterson

Tertia Dixon, 41, from Cape Town, is preparing to give birth to her second child at her home in two weeks.

“What I am most happy about is that I managed to book a home birth before all of this.

“I would have been desperately anxious if I knew I could not have my doula with me at the birth. Most private hospitals have a Covid-19 policy which states that only one birth partner is allowed.

“There is a little bit of anxiety, which is purely driven by social convention and the feeling that I am doing something out of the norm, which is ironic, because women have birthed babies for thousands of years without being treated as medical patients in hospitals,” said Dixon.

Peterson said because the number of home-birth midwives “is so few”, it’s not going to show exponential growth.

“But it does seem to be making more women aware of at least considering home birth as a viable choice that is safe and wholesome.”

Midwife Susan Less, from Birth Options midwifery practice, said: “I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the increased demand, without the increase in experienced home-birth midwives and obstetric support from the gynaecologists and hospitals for the mothers, babies and midwives.”

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