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COVID baby boom producing an increase in home births and record hospital births in Michigan

Preterm baby
Posted at 4:47 PM, Jan 21, 2022

(WXYZ) — With the continuing pandemic, some statistics show that more expecting mothers are staying home to have their baby. The increase in home births is up 33%

However, the medical director of the Beaumont Family Birth Center says that was true only at the beginning of the pandemic. In the second year of COVID (2021), 7, 379 babies were born at Beaumont Royal Oak, a new record.

Another trend for safety: doulas — they are trained, certified assistants to expecting families, and their business is way up.

The head of the family birth center at Beaumont says he trains nurse midwives for home births and he fully supports doulas as assistants. But he says, the hospital is still the best place to have a baby.

"If you want to be as safe as possible, you don't give birth at home," said Dr. Kurt Wharton, medical director at Beaumont Family Birth Center.

Beaumont delivers one out of every six babies born in Michigan. And the early COVID trends of staying home are not continuing now.

"The birth rate is dropping, dropping, dropping. And yet in 2021 here at Beaumont Royal Oak, we deliver more babies than we've ever delivered before," he said.

Katharine and Dimitri Mitropoulos had their first child, a daughter in 2017, at another local hospital.

"The experience was one that we weren't really prepared for, we don't think of fondly; it wasn't what we were looking for at birth," said Katharine.

When they were expecting their son in 2019, they turned to Metro Detroit Doula Services with more uncertainty.

"It seemed kind of dumb and a waste of money. After having the first child, I think we completely changed our minds," said Dimitri.

Dr. Wharton from Beaumont wrote a paper fully supporting doulas in 2017.

"You have a lower risk of a C-section, you'll often have a much higher level of satisfaction. You will probably be less likely to ask for pain medicine and or an epidural. Because again, it's providing a service that nurses used to be able to provide," he said.

In March of 2020, and everything COVID crazy, Katharine and Dimitri decided to stay home to have their son with two midwives and doula support.

"So, we were already like swimming in that and then COVID happening," said Dimitri.

"There are a number of them that choose to do homebirth and ... because of COVID and ... all that uncertainty, switch to homebirth," said Amy Hammer of Metro Detroit Doula Services.

"We realized we had to completely change what we were looking for in this birth, just to keep ourselves safe and the baby safe," said Katharine.

Doulas work with families from the beginning of the pregnancy and during birth, whether at home or in the hospital. They don’t encourage one over the other.

Metro Detroit Doula Services have 22 working with the agency, including labor and birth teams.

"In Michigan, certified doulas are allowed to go into the hospitals," said Amy Hammer of Metro Detroit Doula Services.

And that baby boy born at home in April of 2020, was 16 days late. In case things went south, they were 5 minutes from the hospital.

"Would you do it again?" asked reporter Jim Kiertzner.

"Let me just say that our son was 10 pounds ... so that might answer your question," joked Katharine. "We’re happy."

Doulas continue their care with family and baby for weeks after birth.