More Icelanders Consider Home Births Due to Maternity Ward COVID-19 Restrictions Skip to content
pregnant woman
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More Icelanders Consider Home Births Due to Maternity Ward COVID-19 Restrictions

Icelandic couples with a baby on the way are increasingly considering home births due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The National University Hospital of Iceland has imposed strict regulations that limit expectant fathers’ presence to just the birth itself – they may not attend check-ups with their partners nor stay while the mother recovers. Intended to limit the risk of COVID-19 infection within the maternity ward, these regulations may be what is motivating more couples to consider birthing at home.

Björkin, which provides services for home births, has published a notice on their website to inform potential customers that they are fully booked all spring. There are a few spots open on their waiting list for July, but otherwise, they are not taking new bookings until August.

Changing regulations cause anxiety

Midwife Anna Guðný Hallgrímsdóttir works at the National University Hospital’s maternity ward. She says patients have expressed concerns about the changes to regulation. “Our patients have found it very difficult to think about going through some part of the birthing process without their partner there to support them.” It’s not only having to go through the process alone that induces anxiety for soon-to-be mothers, rather also the uncertainty around the regulations themselves. “They find it very uncomfortable that the rules are often being changed from day to day.”

Rules at the hospital were, however, slightly relaxed this week – while partners were previously allowed in one or two hours before the birth itself, they can now be present for the entire time a woman is actively giving birth. Of course, if a woman’s partner presents symptoms or has been quarantined, they may not attend the birth. Expectant mothers are also directed to avoid visiting the hospital or health clinics if they have symptoms of COVID-19, and call their healthcare provider instead.

Midwives’ tasks change

Although she isn’t experiencing increased pressure on the job, Anna Guðný says the nature of her work has changed somewhat under the circumstances.

“Women now have to stay in their rooms, they can’t walk out to the kitchen to grab food, for example, so we need to bring them food and drinks. And their partners are not present so we often have to help them care for the child, change diapers and so on.” Some services have moved to the phone in order to minimise health care staff’s contact with others. “Women going to their first pregnancy check-up are sometimes attended to by phone, also some 16-week check-ups.”

No changes to services

Anna Guðný assures expectant parents, however, that the same services are still being provided to pregnant women and new mothers. “I think women should know that our services haven’t changed, and if anything, it’s calmer than usual. Because women who have given birth before and who are healthy are choosing to go home sooner and take advantage of home visit services from midwives rather than recover at the hospital which they would have otherwise done, because their partners can be with them at home.”

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