Birthing center says they've received influx of inquiry calls since COVID-19

Tess Everhart (left) and Jenny Martin and her husband Robert Hampton (right) (Provided)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Jenny Martin and her husband Robert Hampton are excited to be welcoming a baby girl to their family.

“We were trying. It was planned,” said expectant mother Jenny Martin.

They’re excited for their son to have a sister.

For Tess Everhart and her husband this is their first pregnancy. When Everhart first saw COVID-19 hitting the headlines, it was mostly overseas.

“I wasn’t too worried about it initially, I was hopefully, it would make a turn for the better,” Everhart said.

Martin and Hampton had a similar initial reaction.

“I kinda put it in the same category as swine flu or bird flu. They happen, but they’re not that prevalent here,” Hampton said.

But by March, the pandemic was not only hitting the US, it was now in Indiana.

“A little bit of panic started to set in for me,” said Everhart.

She was already into her third trimester and had just recovered from what her doctor told her was likely bronchitis.

“After I had been sick and returned to work, and just reading the news, and reading updates and being a healthcare worker (an occupational therapist) and having constant conference call meetings each day and things changing by the hour, and having an understanding of how serious it was, I started to get pretty worried,” Everhart said.

Martin said she began to worry about the exposure she would have to people in a hospital.

Her husband agreed it was a concern because the messaging from public health officials and state and federal leaders was to minimize contact with others.

The concerns that both these women felt were ones that appear to have resonated with many expectant mothers.

“In February, there were right around 40 people calling for inquiry calls. And from the beginning of March to a few days ago, we had 111 inquiry calls,” said Angela Lyttle, clinical director and owner of Sacred Roots Midwifery & Birth Center.

“As certified nurses and midwives, we do GYN care and contraceptive care in addition to prenatal, birth, and postpartum care,” Lyttle said. “But at the birth center, we take care of healthy women with normal low-risk pregnancies.”

Birthing center deliveries are most comparable to home births. It’s an unmedicated birth.

Sacred Roots Midwifery and Birth Center is accredited by the American Association of Birth Centers.

“So there are pretty well defined guidelines on who is and is not a safe candidate for out-of-hospital birth. In the state of Indiana, we’re not able to accept anyone who’s had a previous cesarean, pre-existing hypertension, diabetes, those are things that we would immediately say ‘we can’t accept you,’” Lyttle said. “We don’t have a blood bank. We don’t have a surgeon. We don’t have anesthesia. Those are things, of course, a hospital has. That’s where that appropriate risk outcomes into play. And that’s why it’s important we maintain our standards of who is an appropriate candidate for out-of-hospital birth.”

Martin said she feels blessed that she was able to choose a birthing center.

“Not everyone can make this choice,” Martin said. “We have private health insurance. We both still have our jobs. We both work from home. We have health care literacy. We have transportation. We still have a place. I had a health pregnancy. We’re very lucky to have this option."

Lyttle said it’s important that women who are not good candidates for a birthing center to stay with a safe provider. That's because Indiana has both a high maternal mortality rate and high fetal infant death rate baseline.

“You’re safer to be where you’re at. Every health care provider is working hard to keep everyone safe,” Lyttle said.

Everhart said she feels blessed to know that her husband will be there during her delivery.

“The deciding factor for my husband and I making the transition to Sacred Roots from a hospital setting was that, in New York City they started to ban spouses and support persons altogether from being present for labor and delivery," Everhart said. "Which was very unnerving to imagine, just that he could potentially not be there for the birth and this was our first pregnancy and first child. Definitely something I want him there for and he wants to be there for.”

Sacred Roots Midwifery & Birth Center allows two support people and a professional, such as a doula or photographer, to accompany the mother.

“As far as the actual birth, not much looks different except for we’re wearing full PPE during the birth,” Lyttle said.

All staff also wear masks during client interaction. Everyone entering the facility is screened to make sure they don’t have an elevated temperature or symptoms.

“All of our visits are anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour that we spend with clients. But now we’re spending that time via telehealth. And when people are coming to the office, we’re doing those visits as kind of a quick visit. We get vital signs, measure bellies, listen to the baby and they’re back on their way,” Lyttle said.

They want parents to remember through all of this that it’s about that moment when a parent meets their baby.

“Despite COVID-19, women can still have really beautiful births,” Lyttle said.

Regardless of whether an expectant mother chooses a hospital, home or birthing center for their delivery, the excitement and joy about meeting their little one for the first time will still be there.