Expectant mothers across B.C. are changing their birthing plans in light of recent hospital policies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Victoria woman Nadia McTaggart is expecting her first child in May, and had planned on having her baby at Victoria General Hospital alongside her midwife, husband and doula.
Since March 16, however, Island Health has changed its hospital policies to only allow one guest in the delivery room with the mother. Doulas are not provincially or federally recognized as health practitioners, and so expectant mothers will have to choose between their partners, their doula and anyone else they’d planned on having in the room.
As a result, McTaggart decided to switch from a hospital birth to a home-style birth at the Roundhouse Midwives farm instead.
“I’m a health care worker myself and so I see the precautions being taken firsthand, and appreciate and understand them,” McTaggart said. “I trust the steps that are being taken to keep birthing moms, their babies, and other patients safe…. [But] it’s anxiety-provoking for me just as it is for many others in our community.”
McTaggart isn’t the only one making this kind of switch.
“I would say our members are experiencing a 25- 50 per cent increase in home births,” said Alixandra Bacon, president of the Midwife Association of B.C. “The college of Midwives of B.C. is looking at ways to increase the workforce by bringing in non-practicing and retired midwives into practice.”
Midwives are recognized as health care professionals across B.C., while for doulas it’s a hospital by hospital, region by region decision. The Royal Columbia Hospital, Langley Memorial Hospital all are limiting it to one person, while others like the BC Women’s Hospital in Surrey, the Richmond Hospital and Ridge Meadows Hospital are allowing one person plus a doula, as long as the doula has ID.
“Hospitals are having issues with family members pretending to be doulas so they can be in the delivery room,” explained Samantha Garcia, director of publications and publicity at the Doula Services Association (DSA) of B.C., adding that the DSA has seen a significant uptick in a request for home births.
“Some want more people present at birth, and others think staying outside of the hospital is a good idea, both for themselves and to leave those hospital beds available for people who don’t have an option for home births.”
For now, doulas and midwives are encouraging parents to stay at home for as long as possible during the early stages of labour so they can be present; after that, some doulas are switching to digital services through mediums like FaceTime to try to still be supportive of people going to hospital.