Pregnant women are switching their birth plans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Pregnant in a pandemic: Expectant B.C. moms change birth plans due to COVID-19

Many mothers switch to home births, while others head to the delivery room without expected support

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.

ALSO READ: More than 2,000 UVic students asked to leave dorms in response to COVID-19

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.”

ALSO READ: Pregnant B.C. woman stuck in Wuhan, the epicentre of coronavirus outbreak

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.

“It’s not the same, though,” Garcia said. “Most people have very likely not met their doctors or nurses before, and emotions are extremely high, and now they can’t have their doula with them who’s the person they built a relationship with.”

For Victoria resident Xan Brown, she has no choice but to go to hospital for the birth of her second child , since she had complications in the delivery of her first child which resulted in an emergency c-section. As a result, she has continued fears about birth which make a doula an instrumental part of her delivery experience.

“Having to choose between my husband and my doula has caused me a lot of stress and anxiety,” Brown said. I honestly sat down on my couch in shock and had a massive hysterical cry because it instantly brought up a lot of my feeling of being completely alone and scared at the hospital with my first birth… It’s a day to day process of getting prepared for this birth in ways I wasn’t expecting.”

On top of this, Brown’s mother won’t be able to travel from the United States due to border closures announced on March 18.

ALSO READ: Trudeau says border between Canada and U.S. likely to close Friday night

Kelly Favro is also afraid that her mother won’t be present for the birth of her miracle baby; when she was 20, Favro was told she wouldn’t be able to conceive, but at age 36 discovered she was pregnant. The baby’s father and Favro have a co-parenting relationship but are not in a romantic relationship, so Favro’s biggest support was supposed to be her mother, who would alternate visitations with the baby’s father.

“I am scheduled for a C-Section May 23, but am terrified now because my mom cannot be part of the recovery with me,” she said, adding her mom just made a 20-hour road trip from Florida to Ontario before the borders were closed. “My mom has chronic bronchitis and I am worried she won’t be allowed in at all.”

Also adding to the fear is the lack of information on if or how COVID-19 could affect pregnant women and infants, with the Centre for Disease Control saying it is unknown, and the World Health Organization and BC Centre for Disease Control not publishing official documents on the topic.

In the meantime, birth specialists encourage expectant mothers to try to balance out their plans as much as they can in these trying times, and to remember that at the end of the day a beautiful baby will arrive.

“Advocate for yourself, but also be respectful that we’re working in uncertain times and that hospital staff are doing the best they can,” Garcia said.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 in B.C., visit bccdc.ca.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

Like us on Facebook, send a Tweet to @NicoleCrescenzi
and follow us on Instagram

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Another modular unit is lifted into place on the second floor of the new supportive housing complex being built at 580 Dogwood Street on Thursday this past week. Photo by Cleo Corbett/City of Campbell River
Campbell River’s newest supportive housing facility rises on Dogwood Street

Pre-fab modular construction means the building can go on the foundation in under five days

RCMP remind people to lock their doors after dark. Black Press file photo.
RCMP seeing jump in property crime and unlocked vehicles

Drivers also cautioned to stay aware of changing road conditions

The Campbell River branch of the Vancouver Island Regional Library is scheduled for demolition in 2021 to make way for a new $14-million library facility. File photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Mayor of Campbell River addresses concerns surrounding new library funding

‘This $14 million is the Vancouver Island Regional Library board’s money,’ mayor says

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall advisory for parts of Vancouver Island for Thursday and Friday.(File photo)
Snowfall expected in parts of Vancouver Island

Environment Canada has issued a snowfall advisory for north, east and inland Vancouver Island this week

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read