Nervous about coronavirus exposure, some moms considering home birth

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Stay home, stay safe: it’s a phrase pregnant women are taking to heart as a growing number of expecting mothers are considering home birth amid concerns about coronavirus.

For Jacklyn Shea, a West Michigan mom who just delivered her second baby, it was a last-minute decision. She switched to a home birth plan just days before her due date.

“Our birth plan was originally to give birth in the hospital,” Shea said. “That’s what we did with our first son and we had a really great experience.”

Being pregnant during a pandemic changed things.

“With everything going on, we got concerned about how safe it was going to be in the hospital if that’s where all the sick people are,” Shea said.

A week before her due date, Shea and her husband reached out to Jennifer Holshoe, a certified midwife with West Michigan Midwifery, to learn about the out-of-hospital birthing options available to them.

Holshoe said many expecting families are sharing that same feeling.

“Lately we’ve seen a huge increase in interest of our services as women are concerned and families are worried about going to the hospital and possible exposure,” Holshoe said. “Another anxiety at the moment is the concern that they won’t be able to have the support person with them at the hospital when they get there.”

Hospitals in West Michigan and nationwide have limited the number of people allowed in the delivery room and banned visitors in general. For many soon-to-be moms, it’s a deal breaker.

On Saturday, just one week after reaching out to West Michigan Midwifery, Shea delivered a healthy baby boy in the comfort of her own home.

“With everything that’s going on, it just seemed like a no-brainer for us,” Shea said.

According to Holshoe, not all pregnant women are candidates for home birth. She added that even women with low-risk pregnancies should do their research before bailing on their original birthing plan.

“It’s not a decision someone should make out of fear,” Holshoe said.

As more expecting mothers begin to explore the options of home birth, midwives are scrambling to meet the increased demand. West Michigan Midwifery has the next few months booked solid, while Simply Born, another midwife service in West Michigan, has limited availability in the months ahead.

COVERING THE COST

As certified midwives take on more patients, families struggle to cover the cost. Most insurance plans, including Medicaid, don’t cover out-of-hospital births.

“We are hoping that insurance companies will start to cover this more now as a way to keep (pregnant women) out of the hospital,” Holshoe said. “Healthy people should stay home right now and we think home birth is one way we can do that.”

According to Holshoe, all the services and care included in a home birth cost about $3,500.

Last week, Friends of Michigan Midwives sent a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asking her to issue an executive order that would extend Medicaid coverage to midwives licensed by the state.

“We urgently request that you extend Medicaid to (licensed midwives) in this time when the ability of women to choose their preferred provider—one that is certified and licensed—aligns so well with the public health goals of preventing the spread of COVID-19,” the letter reads in part.

Sara Badger, a certified midwife and owner of Simply Born in Grand Rapids, agreed with the request and sees it as a way to help hospitals focus on the pandemic.

“What has happened is there is just so much pressure on the hospitals and if we can alleviate some of that pressure by taking some of the low-risk women, then the hospitals can focus on what’s happening with the epidemic,” Badger said.

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