Interest in home births surges in St James amid novel coronavirus pandemicThursday, October 14, 2021
BY ROCHELLE CLAYTON
MONTEGO BAY, St James — The onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic has seen an increase in demand for natural home births across the parish of St James, as more expectant mothers are opting to deliver their babies at home, says Simone Cooper-Bernard, a registered midwife.
“Because of the pandemic, a lot of women are opting to have their babies at home so that aspect of midwifery has gone up statistically,” she told the Jamaica Observer West.
“For September, I did two home deliveries, two days apart. There are months when I am doing two or three home deliveries [and] there are times when the lull is there because home deliveries are things that we plan for, but it has increased since the pandemic.”
Nurse Cooper-Bernard, the lead midwife at the Granville Health Centre who currently has 20 successful home deliveries under her belt, 10 of which were done since the start of 2021, also shared that since the start of Jamaica's COVID-19 third wave, many expectant mothers across the island have reached out to her virtually seeking information about the service.
“[In] September, I had over 300 women reach out to me [regarding] home deliveries,” the midwife noted.
This increase in demand for the service, she told Observer West, may be attributed to expectant mothers' understandable fears of hospitals as they are anxious about the possibility of contracting COVID-19, coupled with a shift in the paradigm where now more expectant mothers want the level of intimacy and control that the service brings.
After recognising the need, Nurse Cooper-Bernard said she started to utilise her social media platforms to educate many of her patients visiting the public health clinic about the service which is free of cost to them.
“Some [expectant mothers] just have a general fear of the hospitals and many of them say that they did not know about home delivery. I have been out there campaigning about it, bringing knowledge to it, so a lot of persons who, not even just because of the pandemic, just did not know about the practice. Now, they have choices so they will come and say, 'nurse, I didn't know about home deliveries.' They will ask me how they can become eligible. I will advise them and do an assessment because it is based on eligibility, not everybody will be allowed to do a home delivery,” the midwife shared.
“I am in the social [media] world giving out the information, so expecting mothers who say they never knew that this service existed, are now in the know and they are becoming aware. It is free of cost so who doesn't want to have their babies delivered at home without a cost?”, she asked.
“Some persons want to have their spouses there, you can have whoever you want at your home delivery. You literally get to plan your birth as opposed to the hospital where you really can't have much control over what's happening,” she added.
The midwife told the Observer West that though she wishes she could accommodate every expectant mother requesting the service, there are several criteria to be met by these mothers to become eligible for a home birth.
“[They] need to at least visit the [public] health centre for some time. I have met with quite a few patients who went to private doctors and said they heard about the home deliveries, they wanted to do a home delivery, so I advise them that they need to come to the clinic and visit there for some time. You can't just walk [in] and say 'nurse, I want a home delivery', and we deliver you like that,” Nurse Cooper-Bernard explained.
“We need to know your history and two weeks to your due date we will come to your house to do an assessment. You cannot be high-risk. There should be no high-risk conditions, so no [hypertension], diabetes, severe asthma, or previous surgeries.”
According to statistics provided by the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), which covers the parishes of Trelawny, St James, Hanover, and Westmoreland, some 29 home deliveries were carried out in the region between January and June in 2019; 35 during the same period last year and 39 for the first six months of this year.
St James accounts for more than 50 per cent of the numbers.
Dr Dianne Campbell-Stennett, WRHA's regional technical director, told the Observer West that the choice of a home delivery is available to eligible expectant mothers at all health centres across the region.
“All health centers offer antenatal care according to specific schedules in the parishes except where services are interrupted by varying planned infrastructure rehabilitation or other emergencies,” Dr Campbell-Stennett explained.