WASHINGTON — Cathy Burke is 36 weeks pregnant with her second child. Throughout her pregnancy, Burke planned to deliver in a hospital like she did with her first child. Last week, she changed her mind.
Burke and her family made the decision to have a home birth, avoiding the hospital environment altogether.
"With everything going on, it felt more comfortable and a lot safer. It felt like we could do our part to help minimize that stress on the medical system," Burke said.
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With growing hospital restrictions, the fear of not having her support system in the room for her delivery made the decision to have a home birth an easy one.
Burke’s midwife is Hilary Biesecker with Loudoun Home Birth and Healthcare.
"We're just seeing drastic numbers of inquiries, and we're turning people away and referring them to other midwives in the area," Biesecker said.
Pregnant women face the uncertainty of hospitals preparing for the coronavirus. That uncertainty has midwifery practices reporting an increase in home birth requests. Some of those women are just weeks away from giving birth.
Loudoun Home Birth and Healthcare typically takes on six to eight home births a month. Even with the uptick in interest, they are trying to stick to that amount.
"We are really trying to not compromise that because it's not going to benefit anyone if we overextend ourselves," Biesecker said.
Marsha Jackson is a certified nurse midwife and runs Birthcare and Women’s Health in Alexandria, Va. Jackson also reports seeing an increase in demand for home birth and birthing center requests at her organization.
At a normal information session, M.A.M.A.S. in Takoma Park, Md. would have about six families attend. At one of their most recent sessions, now conducted through video conferencing, they had 20 families attend.
"We really can't accommodate all of the people that now want to switch because there aren't enough of us," said Mairi Breen Rothman, a certified nurse mid-wife with M.A.M.A.S.
Area midwives said home birth can be a great option for healthy, low-risk pregnancies. However, a home birth can cost several thousand dollars out of pocket, coming with a financial burden for some. There are concerns that insurance companies not covering home births puts certain women at a disadvantage.
"(The) big concerns we have is that it can be harder for people in marginalized communities of color to access services," Rothman said.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists issued a statement on its website regarding concerns about giving birth in a hospital:
"Patients who are questioning the settings in which to give birth should have access to the most accurate health information about safety and risk. Hospitals and birth centers that are both licensed and accredited remain safe places to give birth in the United States."