Interest growing for at-home births during the pandemic, doctors urge caution

Posted at 8:16 AM, Dec 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-03 08:16:10-05

Having a baby during any time can be stressful, but especially during a global pandemic; and with concerns about being in a hospital setting and potential exposure to COVID-19, nationwide there's been an increased interest in delivering at home.

It's still overall rare, with only around one percent of American mothers opting for at-home delivery according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists.

One of them is metro Detroit mom Amanda Hawkins, who gave birth to baby number three this April at home. Amanda and her husband Tim, who works at Channel 7 in the Creative Services Department, already had two other daughters.

When coronavirus cases first began to spike in Michigan, and with thousands still to pay off from their second daughter's birth, Amanda began considering at-home delivery against her doctor's wishes. She said eventually Tim got on board too.

“The hospitals here in the metro Detroit area were just being overwhelmed," she said. "And he said I think this is gonna happen, I think we’re going to give birth at home.” And they did, on April 21, to beautiful baby Gabriella.

“All the pain had gone away and it just felt like pure joy," she said of the successful at-home birth.

Amanda had no midwife, Douala, or doctor with her for the birth; only Tim and a close friend.

“I had so much faith in God and I just felt like Jesus was with me the whole time," Amanda told 7 Action News.

At-home deliveries come with a lot of risk, said Dr. Kurt Wharton, Vice Chair of Obstetric Operations at Beaumont Royal Oak.

“We know from several studies that the risk of home delivery can increase the risk of neurological injury," he said, referring to the infant. "The mother incurs risk as well, of infection, bleeding, obstructive labor.”

Risks increase with babies who are early or late, or if the mother has any underlying health issues. Thankfully for Amanda, baby Gabriella moved from the breech position in month seven, and Amanda was healthy.

Before COVID-19, Beaumont limited visitors to four people in the delivery room. Now, in addition to a midwife or a Douala, just one person is allowed.

“We test everyone who is admitted to our labor and delivery unit and we’re able to get those results back in 40 to 90 minutes. And if someone is COVID positive, we isolate them in a room for their own protection and for the protection of others," Dr. Wharton explained, noting that 99 percent of patients who come in are not positive for COVID-19.

He mentioned Beaumont's Karmanos Center for National Child Birth, where mothers can deliver in a home-like setting while still having all the medical expertise and equipment readily available. Many hospital systems have natural birthing centers, which offer families a wider range of options in a birth plan.

Amanda said she probably wouldn't have opted for a delivery at home with her first baby, but said given her experience with Gabriella, she's glad she opted to deliver at home this time around.

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