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Pregnant women changing delivery plans amid coronavirus pandemic

HOUSTON – Midwives across the Houston area have seen a higher demand for their services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ashley Kowalski, a licensed midwife with Yellow Rose Midwifery Group, said inquiries have doubled over the last few weeks.

“We give primary care to low-risk pregnant women who desire a birth center birth or home birth," Kowalski said.

Kowalski and her business partner, Megan Robinson, have delivered about 150 babies.

“Three percent or less of babies born in Texas are through midwives – period,” Kowalski said. “That’s birth center and home birth.”

Robinson, who is also a licensed midwife, said she would not be surprised to see that number spike, as more expectant mothers seek their services.

Brandy Karcher is one of their clients. She is due to give birth in August.

Although the young mother is excited to welcome her baby boy, she never anticipated giving birth during a global pandemic.

“With it being such a new strain of this virus, they don’t know what it can do,” Karcher said. “If you get sick, you don’t know what it could do to your baby. That scares me a lot.”

Homebirth was not Karcher’s first plan, but she said being in a familiar place will give her peace of mind.

“With all the extra stress going on right now, it’s more relaxing being in your own home than in an environment you don’t really understand or know,” she said.

Kowalski said not everyone is a candidate for home birth. Some higher-risk pregnancies require traditional hospital deliveries.

Doctor Sean Blackwell, chair of the OB/GYN department for UT Health, said area hospitals have stepped up their already stringent policies to safeguard mothers and newborns.

“Right now, most hospitals are allowing only one visitor into labor and delivery,” Blackwell said.

Limiting foot traffic and wearing protective masks and goggles are some of the other protocols being implemented.

Hospitals are encouraging families to video-chat while they are limiting visitors, he said.

“We’re really trying to overcommunicate as much as we can to get people as ready for a different situation,” Blackwell said.