Covid boosts homebirth demand as women avoid hospitals 

Covid boosts homebirth demand as women avoid hospitals 

Marah Weissbrich-Maloney with her nine-month-old son Jacob, who was born at home in Killaloe, Co Clare. Picture: Dan Linehan

The demand for homebirths has gone up by more than a third during the pandemic, as many women opt to avoid hospitals.

The National Homebirth Service numbers increased from 272 in 2019 to 354 last year, across all HSE regions.

Some regions saw noticeable increases including Mid-Leinster, up from 65 to 107, and HSE West, from 22 to 37.

Cork and Kerry was the busiest region in both years with 127 (2019) and 129 (2020) women registered for a homebirth.

Aisling Dixon, vice-chair of the Community Midwives Association said just 19 midwives offer homebirths.

She said last month 21 women were turned away in the HSE West as there were not enough midwives.

The pandemic heightened the need, and showed homebirths as a more positive, mainstream option. If we had more midwives, we would have more homebirths.” 

Dr Kyrisa Lynch, chair of AIMS Ireland, which supports women in the maternity system, said: “The maternity strategy recommended homebirth be offered universally and that it be an option for all women irrespective of where they live.” 

An update on the National Maternity Strategy was expected last September but will now be published by June, a HSE spokeswoman said.

In Killaloe, Co Clare, Marah Maloney opted for a home-birth in June because she did not want to be separated from her husband during the birth.

She had attended University Maternity Hospital Limerick for her two previous births.

Based on what she heard about Covid restrictions, Ms Moloney said: “He would probably have sat out in the carpark with the kids and just run in for the delivery. It was the first lockdown so we hadn’t seen family and couldn’t ask them for help.” 

Instead, the birth took place in their living room, attended by two HSE midwives.

She said having her husband and children in the house made all the difference. Her eight-year-old was “delighted” to take the first photograph of his baby brother.

Ms Moloney said: “The baby came at around 3am. Once he was there then we woke up my four-year-old. He got to come down and meet the baby.

“There was cake in the fridge, and we had coffee sitting up together.” 

Amy Jennings had a similar positive experience in September, opting for a homebirth with the National Maternity Hospital.

She said: “You are able to be together. That was really important, I think. You have your own shower, your own tea, that is very important. And having the family together was lovely.” 

Her husband missed all her scans, and that was enough of a brush with the Covid-restrictions, she said.

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