California is seeing a sustained rise in the number of women choosing to deliver their babies in settings other than a hospital, a shift that accelerated as the pandemic created more risky conditions in many hospitals. Numbers have doubled from 2010 to 2020 in this west coast state.
Births away from hospitals usually take place with the help of licensed midwives working at the homes of clients or at free-standing “birth centers.” In either setting, expectant parents typically meet with midwives several times during the pregnancy to get comfortable, express their hopes for the pregnancy and learn about the birthing process.
“I think people are looking to be more empowered in their birth and less ‘just go along with whatever happens,'” said Shari Stone-Ulrich, a certified nurse midwife and midwife services clinical director at Best Start.
As the coronavirus swept across California, families sought births outside hospitals for other reasons. Some didn’t want to give birth in a setting where they feared contracting COVID-19. Others bristled at rules restricting when partners and family members could be present during labor.
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