Birthing in the Time of COVID-19

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A Letter From ICCPM

Illinois Council of Certified Professional Midwives

March 27, 2020

An open letter to the consumers of Illinois,

Our nation is in the midst of the largest global pandemic in our lifetime. COVID-19 has left all of us scared and unsure of what comes next. As we watch the numbers of infected individuals rise, research and guidelines change. Pregnant persons, who expect to give birth any day, are left with fear and an ever changing plan. Understandably, people are curious what the world will even look like when their child comes earthside. Hospital policies on the number of support persons allowed, mask wearing, and the separation of parent and infant are ever changing. Birth plans must be altered. As midwives, empathize with these concerns. We hear and see you.

Folks may even be considering a change in your birth location. We’ve heard from several families who are searching for options. As we’ve seen in all health care professions via the news, resources such as gloves and masks are in high demand and short supply. This is true for community midwives as well. We must carefully consider our workloads. Many of us came into this season with already full practice schedules. It’s possible that many of us cannot manage the load of more clients. In order to provide the high quality and safe care that we’re known for, community midwives must prioritize those birthing persons who were already a part of our practice before the pandemic. Social distancing doesn’t really work in this profession. We know many of us will become ill at some point. These are important things for us to consider moving forward.

The planning and preparation needed for the birthing person and their family to feel safe and secure in their decision to birth at home are great. Many families spend months and months, some even before conception, mentally and emotionally preparing for a medication free birth at home. They’re physically preparing with good nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices. They are gathering supplies, preparing their home. Books are read. Classes taken. A doula is hired. This is not a decision they have made lightly.

Even in this time of uncertainty, we believe the birthing person is best served by the agency they chose to serve them before this pandemic, hospital based practices or community based practices. As community midwives, we also empathize with the healthcare workers at the hospitals and clinics. Their plans must change as well as they navigate this world we’ve all found ourselves in while the birthing person navigates this new system of care.

If low risk pregnant persons are still feeling the urge to investigate birthing at home with a community midwife in attendance, we encourage them to do so. If after diligent and thoughtful research, the autonomy and safety of homebirth remains appealing, pregnant people are welcome to contact community midwives in their area to see if assistance is available. You may wish to message us at the Illinois Council of Certified Professional Midwives Facebook Page to see if we can help place you.

Research continually proves that a planned homebirth with a skilled and certified attendant as the best and safest option for low-risk birthing persons, resulting in high rates of normal physiologic birth and high rates of continued breastfeeding (Cheney, et al. 2014). The entire family enjoys better outcomes with a healthier postpartum period. We work alongside families through shared decision making and solid informed consent. A relationship is built. The birthing person is cared for. We can read the research, the articles, the testimonials. Beyond the research, articles, and testimonials, we, the midwives that serve your communities, get the rare opportunity to be a part of the process that protects wellbeing and produces such impressive outcomes. 

Session after session, year after year, midwives and the communities we serve come up short in Springfield. Each year, the rates of families that plan to birth at home increases. (Grunebaum, 2016) and yet, each year, we come away again without a licensure which would increase access. The legislative session closes and we’re left thinking, “What’s next? Can we continue in this fight?” We show up every year because of you. We show up every year because of your babies. We show up every year because we believe in the power of homebirth to empower and heal. As difficult as this battle is each and every year, we know, first hand, the importance of it.

Cheyney, M., Bovbjerg, M., Everson, C., Gordon, W., Hannibal, D., & Vedam, S. (2014). Outcomes of care for 16,924 planned home births in the United States: The Midwives Alliance of North America Statistics Project, 2004 to 2009. Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, 59(1), 17–27. https://doi.org/10.1111/jmwh.12172 

Grunebaum, A. & Chervenak, F. A. (2016). Out-of-hospital births in the United States, 2009 – 2014. Journal of Perinatal Medicine DOI: https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/jpme.2016.44.issue-7/jpm-2015-0396/jpm-2015-0396.xml