Midwives in higher demand among expectant mothers during pandemic

NORWELL, Mass. — While many businesses are hurting or are shut down because of COVID-19, there is an industry that is thriving. Midwives are seeing a big spike in at home births.

“I’ve gotten probably three dozen calls in the past two weeks,” said Nicole Pegher, a certified professional midwife.

Pegher is based out of Norwell. She says she delivers about 15 babies a year, but the demand for home births is now skyrocketing amid the coronavirus crisis.

“That’s probably more calls than I would get in a year, and I’ve gotten that in the past two weeks, so women are scare,” she said.

Pegher says many soon-to-be moms are reaching out because they’re anxious of delivering in a hospital due to COVID-19, and they’re afraid if the pandemic worsens they may have to deliver alone.

“As of now partners are allowed into the birthing unit, but they can’t promise women who are due in a month that their partners are allowed, and that’s really sending women into a frenzy of fear,” Pegher said.

According to the Massachusetts Midwives Alliance, Massachusetts averages around 400 planned home births every year between about 40 certified professional midwives. But there may not be enough midwives to meet the growing demand.

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“To our family, it’s the smartest thing for us to do, for our family and for our kids,” said Anne Marie Agros, a mother of three who is due in June with baby number four.

She says she's giving birth at home for the first time solely because of COVID-19.

In 2018 only about 1% of all births out of 3.7 million were home births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But with a current boom in at-home births Pegher says many midwives, like so many front-line healthcare workers, are in desperate need of protective medical gear.

“Our supplies dwindling,” she said. “We don’t have the means to restock like a hospital does, but we are a safe alternative.”

In Massachusetts, at home births performed by midwives are not covered by insurance, Medicaid or Mass. health. Pegher says the average home birth costs between $4,000 and $6,000. There is a bill at the State House in committee right now that would expand access to home births.