Midwives, who are the traditional form of obstetrics in many countries, are licensed from the American Midwifery Certification Board or the North American registry of midwives. The United States also recognizes midwives who obtain a graduate degree after completing a nursing program.
In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized the value of midwives in a report, which stated that properly trained midwives could prevent 80% of deaths associated with childbirth, especially in developing nations. The WHO hopes to develop midwifery programs in both third-world and first-world countries by 2030.
Midwives are trained to deliver babies in low-risk pregnancies, often with the help of a doula, who offers emotional support for women during the birth itself. If a risk-factor develops during the pregnancy, midwives bring women to a hospital for further care. That, said Rodgers, will not change even in a pandemic.
Because of the virus, Rodgers said that women are doing their own research into home birth as a viable alternative to hospital care. And they are finding that for low-risk pregnancies, the outcomes are very good.
“Some moms who are due in a couple of weeks are calling us up and saying ‘do you have room for me? I’m 37 weeks… and I really don’t want to birth in a hospital,’” said Rodgers.
One mother contacted Modern Miracle Birth 38 weeks into her pregnancy. She was afraid of going to the hospital, although she admitted that she knew nothing about having a baby at home.
But after meeting Rodgers, she trusted her team and decided to have her baby at home. She gave birth to a nine-pound baby boy in her bathtub.
“You could see the fear melt away. That was really, really beautiful, because it was not what she expected at all,” said Rodgers.
Tracy Santangelo, a midwife whose practice, BirthPointe, serves the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said that she had to turn away seven or eight women every week at the peak of the pandemic.
“People are willing to do a lot to make sure that their birth desires are really something that they can be attained and will be respected,” Santangelo said.
But she could not get the supplies she needed to accept extra clients, although she went to great lengths to obtain supplies. She even bought a face shield from a Chinese food restaurant supplier.
“People were very panicked,” Santangelo said. Most of the women who called her were already late in their pregnancies. “I don’t know if they found somebody or not.”
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Women are particularly concerned about a policy, implemented in many hospitals around the nation, that bars family members from being present at birth.
“They can’t even have their children come in to meet the new sibling,” said Santangelo. “And for me, this is really, by far, my favorite part of the birth.”
Santangelo said that one of her clients, a first-time mother, plans to give birth in a hotel room in order to allow her family to be present but also to be close to the hospital. It’s actually something Santangelo has done before.
Women’s concerns about not having family present at a birth go beyond sentimentality. Rodgers explained that in the case of a medical emergency, a husband makes decisions on behalf of his wife, if she is unable to do so.
“The woman doesn't have anyone to advocate for her,” if the husband is not present, said Rodgers. “If she has to have an emergency c-section, there’s nobody there to consent for her if she can’t consent for herself. So that is a big issue.”
Although many women did not plan to deliver their babies at home, Rodgers said that many say they end up preferring at-home births over hospital births.