Pregnant in the pandemic: Michiana women decide whether to give birth in hospitals

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Expecting mothers already have plenty on their minds when planning to bring their baby into the world. Now, the coronavirus tops that list.

But one industry hoping to alleviate some of that anxiety is midwifery, which is more common in other countries.

Local women who choose them tell ABC 57 a labor professional that gets to know them throughout their pregnancy provides needed comfort in times of uncertainty.

Hannah St. Clair, a mother of three in Granger, admits the coronavirus pandemic brought fear to her family during her pregnancy.

“I talked to my husband right away and I was like, ‘This is what’s happening. What are we going to do?” St. Clair said.

When checking into Memorial Hospital, she was encouraged to keep a mask on and told she could choose only one support person to be at her side - part of nationwide hospital restrictions suggested by the CDC and state health departments.

“I just almost had a meltdown, because I was like, ‘Oh my gosh what am I going to do?’ My mom is my huge support system when I’m in labor. I mean so is my husband, but my mom and I are just really close. And with her being a nurse it just adds a different element to that for me,” St. Clair said.

The person she chose to deliver her baby was Kristin Vincent, a South Bend-based certified nurse midwife who’d meet with her from the early stages of her pregnancy.

”She knows me, you know? She knows my medical history off the top of her head (as opposed to) not knowing anything about me,” St. Clair said.

Vincent said the pandemic has added unforeseen challenges to the standards of helping women and their families.

“It does affect everybody,” Vincent said.

“It affects the whole birth experience because it’s altered from what you would normally get to do. The hospitals are trying to figure out what is the best thing to do for these patients. How do we keep this virus from spreading? How do we keep the nurses safe?”

One option spiking in demand for low-risk women to avoid hospital mandates is being in the comfort of a birth center, or even having a home-birth - something Kate Shantz in Goshen specializes in.

“A home birth experience is nice because you’re exposed only to your own germs,” Shantz said.

“You’re not exposed to other people‘s germs. And that’s a big advantage especially in this era of coronavirus.”

One of Shantz’s clients is Britney Miller, who at 40 weeks pregnant prefers having her fourth baby at home.

“It will just be Kate and one other midwife comes with her, so just two people,” Miller said.

“I feel so comfortable. I know they will be clean and like you know, wear masks or whatever they need to do.”

With being a non-essential worker and soon being on maternal leave as well, Miller said the lower cost of a home-birth is another needed benefit.

“My friends that have had kids in the hospital, they’ve had natural births in the hospital and C-sections…and it can get really expensive,” Miller said.

“But even a natural birth is like, so expensive in a hospital - even if you don’t use any (sedatives), so yeah it’s so much more affordable.”

Since March, Google searches for ‘home birth’ in the United States have surged almost 100 percent.

And in an area like Michiana with a larger number of midwives than usual, women choosing them for their pregnancies may indeed become part of a new normal.

But both midwives say at the end of the day, a mother’s instinct is always what a family should choose.

“I think everybody should birth where they’re comfortable,” Shantz said.

“It’s the same thing, that you’re about helping women to accomplish the birth that they want that is the safest for themselves and their baby,” Vincent said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in a pandemic or not, you still can accomplish that, and it’s still the same goal.”

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