Vermonters turn to home births and midwifery during the pandemic

By Florence Wu

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased the demand for innovative approaches in midwifery work, according to Chenoa Hamilton, a local Vermont midwife.

Hamilton is a nationally and state-certified midwife who has been attending births for 23 years. She moved to Addison County in 2006 and currently owns Jumelles Wellness Midwifery, which offers central Vermont families home birth care, doula services, lactation counseling, and childbirth education. 

Chenoa Hamilton, the owner of Jumelles Wellness Midwifery, offers central Vermont families services ranging from home birth care to lactation counseling. (COURTESY PHOTO)

“Earlier in the pandemic, most midwives I know said they were getting a ton more calls from clients. There were a lot of concerns about going to the hospital during the early stages of the pandemic,” Hamilton said. “Covid has affected how and where people choose to give birth.”

Jessica Danek, who gave birth during the pandemic, decided to choose home birth mainly because of preexisting personal preferences. However, less risk of exposure to Covid-19 was the final factor that convinced her that home birth would be the right choice for her family.

“Home birth has always been very high on my radar as someone who strives to live simply, naturally, and with intention. It was also of utmost importance to me that my older daughter witnesses the entire birth,” she said. 

Danek said that she had an amazing experience and looked forward to potentially doing it again. 

Brittany Leno, who had decided on having a home birth prior to the pandemic, also referred to its natural and personal setting as the primary reason for her decision.

“[Me and my family] were looking to be in the environment that felt most supportive of the normal physiological process of labor and birth. For us, that meant staying at home, where we felt safe and comfortable, with a team of highly skilled care providers,” Leno said.

Both Leno and Danek had Hamilton as their midwife. 

Hamilton also helped Linda Segovia Wise with her home birth this April. Wise said the intimate setting made giving birth an empowering experience. 

Due to the pandemic, Wise limited her personal contacts by conducting her prenatal visits via video call. Hamilton set up the equipment and supported the labor process with the help of Wise’s husband, who learned to measure her belly and take her blood pressure, according to Wise. 

“I felt very lucky to not have to leave the safety of my bedroom for the birth of my daughter when the world outside seemed so scary,” Wise said. 

Hamilton emphasized that home births aren’t for everyone, as situations and needs can differ on a case-by-case basis. 

“Being fearful of Covid-19 alone is not a good reason to have a home birth,” she said. She recommended the Vermont Midwives Association website for people seeking to educate themselves further on midwifery and home births. 

Currently, Hamilton provides a mix of telehealth and face-to-face visits. For in-person visits, she always wears personal protective equipment, including masks and gloves, while attending to the new family. 

Although during the warmer months most prenatal and postpartum visits were outdoors, Hamilton has returned to in-office visits with the arrival of colder weather.  

While Hamilton believes her current process of care worked well, she noted that the pandemic means some families receive less support than they typically would because they want to avoid bringing additional people into their homes. This separation elevates the importance of finding innovative ways to care for families, especially during the postpartum period, Hamilton said.

Overall, although the social distancing regulations changed the logistics of all face-to-face care, including midwifery work, Hamilton believes that the local midwives have adapted well.

“Since birth is such a wild and unpredictable part of the human experience, people who do birth-related work are generally very good at adapting,” she said.