For eight months, Brisbane mother Sammy Stokes planned to give birth to her daughter in a hospital maternity ward.
Then the coronavirus hit.
Faced with tough social distancing measures that could have left her alone in the birthing suite, the 29-year-old chose to stay at home.
Ms Stokes is part of the 500 per cent increase in home births experienced by some midwifery practices since the coronavirus crisis started.
“When I went to my 32-week antenatal appointment at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, I was told I was unable to have any support people when I gave birth,” Ms Stokes said on Tuesday.
The only person I was allowed to have was my partner but if Andy had a temperature, he would not be allowed in the room, leaving me birthing on my own.
“That did not sit right with me.”
Ms Stokes opted for a home birth, which would allow her husband and family to be present with the midwives.
“We only had four weeks to prepare, but everything went to plan,” she said.
“Sunny came out with lots of hair and a big set of lungs on April 25th. She is perfect.”
Australia’s largest midwifery practice, My Midwives, has had a five-fold increase from two to about 10 homebirths per month since March, when maternity wards began implementing COVID-19 social distancing measures.
“It has been quite incredible,” managing director Liz Wilkes said.
Normally we do most of our births at hospitals, but that has shifted to doing more at home.
“We thought it might be a knee-jerk reaction, but it is continuing.”
It is not fear of catching COVID-19 at hospitals that is driving women home. It is the changes to maternity ward procedures to protect staff and patients from the disease.
It is leaving women very worried about potentially losing control of their births,’’ Ms Wilkes said.
During a home birth, women are guided by their midwives but medical safety remains the focus, she said.
“A home birth offers a very different environment,” Ms Wilkes said.
It is a woman-centred family environment rather than a medically-led environment.’’
Queensland Nurses and Midwives’ Union assistant secretary Sandra Eales said she was not surprised by the increase in home births.
“It is entirely understandable that women would want to remain safely in place in their own environment and bring whatever help they need into their home,” she said.
It allows women to have the support network they forged during pregnancy present while they give birth, which may not have been possible in hospitals due to social distancing regulations.
“It is a sensible approach to keeping women and their families well during COVID-19 times,” Ms Eales said.