Is is still safe to give birth in hospital?
QUEENSLAND'S pregnant women are so petrified of birthing in hospitals packed with COVID-19 patients they are making the switch to home birthing.
Former Australian Midwives Association boss Liz Wilkes, who now runs the largest midwifery practice in Australia, said: "We have had a massive flood of concerned women contacting us to make plans to have a home birth with a private midwife away from the hospital setting.
"Birthing is already an area of high anxiety, but I have been shocked by the reaction to the virus in the last few days.
"We have taken more calls in one day than we would normally have in months."
The Maternity Consumer Network is also reporting a tsunami of women wanting to know how to keep themselves and their newborns healthy.
Spokeswoman Alecia Staines told The Courier-Mail: "We've had a huge surge in women expressing concerns about hospital births and the risks to them and their baby by birthing in a place with COVID-19 sufferers.
"Women are saying they would prefer to birth at home, which would free up the hospital system too."
Queensland Health newly released COVID-19 Guidance for Maternity Services says there is no evidence of in-utero transmission of the virus.
There is also no evidence that the virus can be transmitted by breastfeeding, in fact antibodies to coronaviruses have been identified in breastmilk.
But the advice comes with a caveat - "evidence is based on limited case studies and should be interpreted with caution".
"It is understandable that a pregnant woman would have anxiety over the coronavirus situation," Ms Wilkes said.
"It would make great sense to help free up beds and staff in hospitals at a time when resources are going to be desperately overstretched. Medicare rebates for homebirths would make it a viable option for many more women."
Brisbane woman Bree Tipoki is 22 weeks pregnant and planned to have her baby at the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital birthing centre with a private midwife.
"We will now look at having the baby at home," the 25-year-old said.
"Thankfully I have a midwife who is able and qualified for home births.
"The extra cost will be a stretch - as my husband and I are performers in musical theatre and the virus is likely to impact our work - but we have to take all precautions to keep our baby safe.
"Medicare backing would be a great help."
A Queensland Health spokesman said they understood members of the community were concerned and anxious about the virus, but the department and the state's facilities were well placed to handle all COVID-19 scenarios.
"Appropriate infectious disease protocol remains in place, and our clinicians are amongst the most highly trained in the world," the spokesman said.
Health Minister Steven Miles told The Courier-Mail mums-to-be should stick with their birth plans in consultation with their midwives or clinicians.
"Maternity wards remain the best place to give birth," he said.