Why a Last-Minute Home Birth Is Not Better Than Laboring Alone in the Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has forced expecting parents to revise their birth plans, with hospitals allowing only one support person during delivery. Some hospitals moved to ban even that one visitor, and many protested that this could have detrimental health consequences for mothers. That could have been the case for one New Jersey mother, who just had a last-minute home birth rather than stay in the hospital alone.

“They were like, ‘OK, your husband has to wait in the car … He can’t come back with you because of everything that’s going on,’ ” Erin Persia told Philadelphia news station WPVI of her arrival at Virtua Voorhees Hospital on Friday.

She hadn’t been told that partners were banned, and the news came as a complete shock. After the fact, a hospital spokesperson told WPVI that this was a misunderstanding, and a support person is allowed during delivery at this time. But in that moment, alone in the triage center, Persia started having a panic attack.

Though she had been experiencing contractions on the way there, she determined that they had stopped, and she could go home.

Persia, who has three other children, was a bit mistaken on that front. The contractions returned, and she wound up sitting in her bathtub for two hours.

“I was already in labor for maybe seven hours at the time, and I was like, ‘I can’t do this for very long’ and as soon as I said that, I felt her move down,” Persia told the station. By then it was too late for any medical intervention.

With only her husband present, Persia delivered 9 lb., 6 oz. baby Amelia right there in the tub. Both mother and baby are completely healthy, and neither had to step foot in the hospital.

This isn’t always the case with home births, particularly not unplanned ones. Doctors don’t recommend this as a backup plan, even given our present circumstances. There are several risks to involved for both mother and baby in a home birth, and those are exacerbated when there’s no medical professional on site.

“One of the biggest complications, whether you’re in the hospital or not, is postpartum hemorrhage,” Katie Hicks, an OB-GYN from Massachusetts, told SheKnows. “Being in a place that has a blood bank and has your blood type on file would speed up the ability to take care of a postpartum hemorrhage, which is something that can happen very rapidly and very dramatically.”

Another possible complication for the mother is abnormally high pressure. Both of these conditions have been linked to the high occurrence of maternal mortality in the U.S.

Then, of course, there’s the health of the baby to consider. Hicks explained that the most common complication during vaginal birth is oxygen deprivation, either because the umbilical cord is wrapped around the infant’s neck or because there were rapid contractions compressing the cord.

“Some of those babies need temporary resuscitation right after birth,” Hicks said, describing how doctors or nurses can give the baby oxygen or assist breathing with a bag. “In most cases, you can sail through that, if you have the proper equipment and the proper people around.”

This is a risk parents take with every home birth, but during a pandemic, when emergency services are stretched thin and an ambulance might be delayed, it’s even riskier.

“Those first five minutes are really critical,” Hicks said.

Women choosing a home birth well in advance of their due date have a chance to evaluate these risks against those of being in a hospital. But it’s definitely not something anyone should do at the last minute — not on purpose, anyway.

Still, we are very happy that it all worked out for the Persia family.

“I think the best part of this whole experience is we are HOME, safe, comfortable, in our own bed!” Erin Persia wrote on Facebook the day after her ordeal. “I used my own bathroom all night and showered in my own shower. There’s nothing better than that!”

These celebrities who chose a home birth would agree with her.

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