Pregnancy during a pandemic

By Simon Ruppert

Bringing a new life into the world can be stressful, during a pandemic that can be magnified - especially for first-time parents.

As Victoria has come to grips with COVID-19, industries across the state have been forced to make changes to protect public safety.

Sadly the effect of changes made within maternity wards and prenatal and postnatal services has left many mothers feeling isolated and scared for the health of their new baby.

Benalla's Claire Mathlin-Cook, an experienced midwife, found herself being contacted by a huge number of expectant parents soon after coronavirus restrictions were initiated.

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“I am a homebirth midwife, nurse and childbirth educator who works throughout North East Victoria,” Claire said.

“I don't know how people were getting my contact details, but a lot were messaging me on Facebook or calling my mobile to ask for help.

“Something I had always aimed to do was to set up a business offering prenatal and postnatal care and advice, and offering options for home births.

“And I felt that this was a sign that I needed to get that up and running.

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“There were so many new mums, and women who were approaching their due-date, who were scared and wanted assistance.

“Which is why I set up Your Birth Midwifery.”

Claire said navigating the system could be scary when everything was normal, but during a pandemic that was increased tenfold.

“From a midwifery perspective when you’re relying on a maternity system in rural country Victoria it can already be difficult,” Claire said.

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“Then you bring COVID-19 into the mix, and women are finding themselves in a position where they are lacking care.

“They’re not necessarily able to see their midwives, which can be a very reassuring thing.

“And when you’ve got a vulnerable woman all those fears are even worse.

“I'm increasingly seeing women who are very stressed.

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“We’re having women in the hospital room where everyone is wearing masks and gowns – it’s an incredible sterile and unnatural environment and the reality is that stress hormones have a significant adverse affect on labour and women.

“It can stall labour, and when a labour stalls that’s when we start seeing a cascade of interventions ending in things like assisted deliveries or cesarean sections.

“Which for a lot of women is not their plan and can have ongoing health implications for them and their children.”

Claire said in Benalla Hospital, at the moment, women were only allowed one support person with them during the birth.

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“So you are allowed to have five people over to socialise, but only one person to support you when you are giving birth,” she said.

“Just one person to help walk you through this massive, life-changing event.

“Which just doesn't make sense.”

With Your Birth Midwifery Claire specialises in the continuum of pregnancy care specialising in home birth, but is available to help through any stage of the pregnancy.

“With home births we can hear isolated horror stories, but statistically it is as safe as a hospital birth,” Claire said.

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“And it is an extra service I can offer as many women want to avoid the hospital environment, particularly during the pandemic.

“Unfortunately my services are not covered by any subsidy, so there is a cost.

“But I encourage any women seeking advice or looking to ask questions about what I can offer to get in contact.”

● To contact Claire at Your Birth Midwifery, phone 0400 442 023 or email [email protected]

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