Having a baby at home is proving to be a popular choice for families amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Pregnancy, birth and postpartum doula Emily Hallam-Sheehan and independent midwife Mary Youen say inquiries about home birth and the number of home births have doubled since March and they attribute this jump to concerns around coronavirus.
"It's a personal chose and a very individual choice," Mrs Hallam-Sheehan said.
"I think COVID is a contributing factor. The pandemic has highlighted some concerns mothers and families have already had. I have definitely seen at least a double in home births and women seeking support."
Having opted for home births herself, Mrs Hallam-Sheehan said many concerns raised by expectant parents were around support and labour.
"The restrictions mean only one person can be in the birthing room and only that one person can visit," she said. "That means no doulas or extra support like family members. A lot of women, particularly first time mothers, have said not having a complete birthing team added a layer of anxiety.
"There was already an increase in awareness in south-west of home births and care but COVID has highlighted the need for a support team."
There's no Medicare rebates for home birth services. However, benefits for the birth may be claimed through private health funds.
Mrs Hallam-Sheehan said the cost of home births was limiting some families from accessing the service.
"When you choose a home birth, you have to pay the midwife as a private practitioner," she said. "They can cost between $2000-$6000.
"There is definitely a financial barrier when accessing home births. When you make that choice, it comes with a financial commitment."
The Australian College of Midwifery called on the federal government to explore measures to increase home births at the beginning of the pandemic and other organisations have pushed for it to be more financially accessible through Medicare.
"Home birthing is definitely not every woman's choice and I don't think it's something women should be choosing out of a fear of hospitals in the pandemic," Mrs Hallam-Sheehan said. "But it is also something that can be really wonderful. I'm a home birth mum of two and I wouldn't have changed a thing.
"If it is a women's choice, it should be accessible."
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