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Home births likely to skyrocket in NYC due to coronavirus

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The demand for home births is skyrocketing in New York City amid the coronavirus crisis, according to midwives and doulas — who saw an 85 percent increase in calls after hospitals began forcing women to give birth alone.
“We had more inquiries in one day this week than we had in an entire year,” said Kimm Sun, a midwife at Heart Science Midwifery in Brooklyn. “The biggest reason is that women don’t want to labor without their partners.”
Couples began scrambling to set up births at their own abodes after hospitals last week banned all visitors — including spouses, partners and family members — from entering maternity and postpartum rooms to prevent the spread of the virus.
“People got worried,” said Evelyn Alvarez, a Bronx-based doula. “Women are suddenly interested in alternative births because they don’t want to be alone.”
But there are only about 25 midwives certified to do home births citywide, according to industry sources and nyhomebirth.com — forcing midwives to turn many away couples.
The effect on moms-to-be is “heartbreaking,” Sun said.
“The birth world is in turmoil,” she said. “I worry about what this will mean for babies being born to mothers who are so stressed.
“I don’t want to send people away, but this is unprecedented,” Sun said. “We’ve never had to deal with anything like this. It’s really bad.”
Meanwhile, as home births boom, many midwives are in desperate in need of protective medical gear, Sun said, noting that the pandemic has sucked suppliers dry.
A change.org petition is now demanding that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo force all hospitals to allow pregnant women to bring along “a spouse, partner or other person.”
The petition says state health guidelines have “determined a support person … is essential to care for the patient during labor.”
The petition had garnered more than 600,000 signatures by Sunday.
To help solo mom-to-be in hospitals, some doulas have “started offering virtual support,” Alvarez said. “Midwives are tapped.”
Hospitals with the no-visitors policy include the Mount Sinai Health System, which operates eight hospitals in New York City and Long Island, and NewYork-Presbyterian, which has 13 locations in the five boroughs and Westchester County.
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