COCHRANE— During the upheaving experience of pregnancy during the COVID-19 pandemic, local birth workers are adding a sense of comfort and control for those in need.
The virus has transformed how midwives support their clients said Shianna Pace, registered midwife and owner of Shifra Centre for Wellness and Cochrane Community Midwives.
“Women have been having babies for years,” Pace said. “Midwives have been in the health care system for a long time so we are just reassuring them that we are taking care of ourselves and we’re following protocols.”
A midwife is a specialist in normal low-risk pregnancy and childbirth. Pace added midwives are still able to still accompany clients into the hospital.
Midwives provide an added comfort for clients because of the relationship of trust they foster, Pace said. She added midwives are available for their patients 24 hours a day to help with any questions or complications that arise.
“The biggest thing is that we’re finding our women are nervous so we’re finding we really have to educate them and do our best to help them know that the system is working and there’s lots of protocols put in place for their safety,” Pace said.
She said midwives are used to having face-to-face meetings and physical contact with clients, but this practice has drastically changed due to the safety boundaries in place due to COVID-19
Pace said midwives are adjusting to social distancing and following the same health care protocols and measures that have been put in place for family doctors and hospitals.
These new protocols have changed some of their client interactions, she said, explaining that they are now using video conferencing in place of some in-person visits.
“We’re just being hyper-vigilant in screening patients before they come into our clinic and making sure everything is sterilized and cleaned often,” Pace said.
A further change has been the closure of the Shifra waiting room because women are now coming into the centre individually.
The closure of the waiting room was especially challenging, Pace said because it serves as a safe space for women to celebrate their pregnancies and socialize.
“It’s really changing the culture of midwifery right now,” Pace said.”Our clients are used to spending time together in the waiting room chatting about babies, admiring each other's babies.”
Pace said she has seen an increased interest in women looking for midwifery care since the start of the pandemic. She believes this increased interest could be because midwifery offers more birthing options— Midwives are the only care providers that can help deliver babies at a birth centre, hospital or at a home birth.
“We’re getting calls for women interested in midwifery care but it’s not really part of our scope to book so late into care,” Pace said, explaining they usually partner with women before their third trimester, the 28th week of pregnancy. She added that ideally clients are booked nine months in advance.
Pace said that home birth or pregnancy centre births may be more appealing for women because the thought of going to a hospital during the pandemic may seem scary to some.
“The hospitals are still a very safe place to give birth,” Pace said. “I think one of the big things that is changing for people is the support they can have in the hospital, that’s reduced.”
For women wanting midwives it is essential to contact midwives as soon as possible, Pace said, adding that Shifra Centre for Wellness and Cochrane Community Midwives are currently taking clients for October and November. Visit shifracentre.com for more information.
Doulas are seeing an increased demand for their services and are continuing to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, said founder and owner of Chavah Childbirth Services Erin Moyen. Chavah has eight team members, including six who serve the Cochrane/Calgary area.
“It’s essentially the same support,” Moyen said. “It may look physically different because people are wearing masks and gowns and taking extra physical precautions.”
Birth doulas are adaptable she said and are working to continue offering support to clients online. She added that this has included increased check-ins with pregnant families.
Doulas provide significant emotional, physical and mental health benefits to birthing families, she said, and throughout the pregnancy, they can provide prenatal information.
A major challenge doulas face she said, is maternity care units are now limiting the number of support people to one during a birth.
“Families that we already had on our calendar with births that were upcoming, they were having to choose between having their partner with them or having their doula,” Moyen said, explaining that this has caused the support doulas offer to transition online.
Doulas are following Alberta Health recommendations and health measures put in place to prevent the spread of the virus and keep the Chavah clients, team and community safe, she said. Some of the services now offered online include childbirth education classes that have typically been in person.
The support doulas offer has not changed, she said, explaining that the major difference has been moving from in-person meetings to real-time video conferences. Meetings online still offer an interactive experience with pregnant families, she said, and doulas can answer any immediate questions clients may have.“Health care professionals definitely safeguard the physical well-being of their patients, but doulas safeguard the emotional and psychological well-being,” Moyen said.
For more information visit chavahchildbirthservices.com or call 587-225-9595.