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Why Interest In Home Birth Is Rising During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, pregnant women across the world are battling with anxieties regarding the safe delivery of their babies. With hospitals and clinics booked with coronavirus patients, the question of delivering babies without fear of COVID-19 spread is out of the context.

The per-day rise in coronavirus patients (both symptomatic and asymptomatic) has made pregnant women reconsider their delivery options in hospitals. This has caused a significant rise in home births in the past few months. But is home birth plan a safer option? Let's discuss.

What Is Home Birth?

Home birth is a planned way to deliver a baby at home comfortably and under the consideration of a medical expert such as a midwife or nurse. When we say planned way, it means discussing the potential complications, risks, benefits and other expectations associated with home birth, labour and delivery. [1]

Reasons Why Home Birth Is Planned

Personal choices matter when it comes to the delivery of women. Some of the reasons why pregnant women plan home births are:

  • Desire to give birth in a comfortable environment and with families around.
  • Desire to give birth in a natural way, without any medical procedures such as labour augmentation or labour induction.
  • Bad experience related to hospital care at the time of delivery.
  • Some cultural beliefs and practises.
  • Lack of transportation.
  • Low income due to which hospital care can't be supported.

Benefits Of Home Births

The safety of home births has always been a controversial issue in the maternity system. However, some of the possible benefits of home birth include:

  • Low maternal morbidity due to conditions such as perineal lacerations (vaginal tear), postpartum haemorrhage (blood loss after childbirth) and instrumental vaginal births. [2]
  • High rates of satisfaction due to being in an environment where a pregnant woman has greater control and opportunity for empowerment related to their choices.
  • Low rates of neonatal deaths due to medical interventions.
  • Smoother experience of delivery with no disturbance from the outsiders, unlike hospitals where unfamiliar individuals walk in and out of the room, causing a disturbance and emotional discomfort.[3]
  • The midwife or nurse involved in home births gives full attention right from the start of the labour to the end.
  • Having a choice of using pain medications as some women want to avoid them and feel the natural process of labour.
  • It is safer for second-time moms.

Who Are Allowed And Not Allowed

Women who are at low risk of pregnancy complications can be allowed by medical experts to give birth at home under the observation of midwives or obstetrician. However, women with pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, anaemia, infections and breech position must not opt for home birth and plan accordingly for delivery at hospitals.

Disadvantages Of Home Birth

  • Chances of some obstetric complications which may need immediate transference to a hospital.
  • Pregnancy usually lasts between 37-42 weeks. Therefore, women who are at least 37 weeks pregnant are considered for home birth by healthcare professionals. [4]
  • It is not recommended for women who are pregnant with twins, triplets or more.
  • Not recommended if the baby's head is not settled in a down position.
  • Women who previously had a C-section are not recommended.
  • Some problems may arise if the midwives/nurse/obstetric are not trained professionals and are not able to guide you properly.

Is Home Birth During COVID-19 A Better Option?

According to a study based on the US neonatal survey, isolation between newborns and mothers have increased due to the fear of COVID-19 spread from infected mother to the child or due to the pending reports.

Though the steps were carried out for the good of both the mother and the child, some case reports have shown its negative effects- lack of breastfeeding and skin-to-skin care- may cause a long-term impact on babies such as weakening of the immune system. Also, there's a risk of vertical transmission i.e. the risk of transfer of coronavirus infection from the COVID-positive mother to the child.

Home birth is a better option during COVID-19 as it prevents the risk of virus contraction in the hospital. This is because several reports were found relating to the contraction of coronavirus by the mother after the hospital admission. Also, family members accompanying have to go through several tests of COVID-19 and may be restricted from touching the newborn for a particular time.

All these limitations have made families lookout for alternatives to hospital delivery during the pandemic and rise in home births.

What To Do

  • The first thing to do before moving forward with the home birth option is to talk to a doctor/midwife regarding the safety of the process.
  • Identify your pregnancy risks and how to avoid them if you chose for a home birth.
  • Look for trained and certified medical professionals with several years of experience in the field.