Coronavirus: Some women anxious to give birth in hospitals as Delta spreads in New Zealand

Giving birth can be daunting for many women, especially first-time mothers.

But giving birth during an alert level 4 lockdown is a completely different story, with some pregnant women now facing increased anxiety over delivering in a hospital.

The Delta outbreak means New Zealand's hospitals have had to change their rules about who is allowed to be present at a birth.

One pregnant woman, Rosie Deans, was already nervous about the possibility of midwives striking, and now she's considering a home birth to avoid going to the hospital during lockdown.

"I was initially worried about going into labour when the strikes were going to take place, but this [the outbreak] absolutely blindsided me," she tells Newshub.

The 37-year-old is due to give birth any day now at Auckland's North Shore Hospital, which recently treated a person who later tested positive for COVID-19 and could've been infectious during their admission.

"I'm actually thinking about a home birth and just calling the ambulance if something happens as opposed to going into the hospital just to avoid sick people," Deans says.

During last year's lockdown, the number of home births increased. The New Zealand College of Midwives says they're an option for women with low-risk pregnancies.

"Women that have got risk factors, really hospital is often the best place for them," says Alison Eddy, the chief executive of the New Zealand College of Midwives.

She says hospitals do all they can to keep people safe.

"Women need not be scared to go to hospital. The hospital will be looking after everybody that needs their services as best they can to really minimise any risk of COVID transmission."

Auckland City Hospital.
Auckland City Hospital. Photo credit: Getty Images

Level 4 has also changed the rules on who can be at hospital births. At least one is asking support partners to leave within hours of the birth, whereas others can stay as long as they wear a mask.

Auckland Hospital says women and their babies will be safe but encourages those who are well and low-risk to deliver at the local birthing centre if they meet requirements.

Deb Pittam, Auckland DHB director of midwifery, says they're doing everything to ensure their safety, and they have robust patient screening processes and staff screening.

"It's important to us that women who birth in our care have the support they need," she says.

At Auckland Hospital, women who go into labour can have up to two support people. They are asked to stay in the labour room, wear a mask at all times, follow good hand hygiene, and observe physical distancing while they are in the hospital.

"We encourage pregnant women who are well, considered as having a 'low-risk pregnancy' and who have been identified by their lead maternity carer (LMC) as meeting birthcare entry requirements to have their babies there if they are able to," Pittam says.

"We advise women who would like to explore alternative birthing options, such as home birth, to speak with their LMC to determine the best option for them and their baby."

For those currently pregnant and yet to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends it, saying the benefits outweigh any potential risks.

"The risk of catching COVID while you're pregnant will potentially mean a worse outcome for you and or your baby than if you weren't pregnant," Eddy says.

Pregnant women with COVID-19 are at an increased risk of severe illness, needing a ventilator, and preterm birth.