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NY Launches Coronavirus Maternity Task Force To Find Birth Alternatives

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In New York, the epicenter of the United States' coronavirus outbreak, more and more expectant mothers are changing their birth plans in an attempt to avoid hospitals during the ongoing pandemic. To help ensure pregnant women throughout the state remain able to access the care and services they need, New York launched a coronavirus maternity task force Monday. Along with issuing recommendations regarding the novel coronavirus' general impact on pregnancy, New York's new maternity task force will also work to find additional ways of providing expecting mothers safe alternatives to hospitals already stressed with COVID-19 patients.

"This pandemic strained our hospital system in a way no one could have ever imagined, and while New York leads in ensuring laboring mothers were able to have a healthy partner, friend, or family member with them during childbirth we can and should explore additional ways to make the experience less stressful," Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Chair of the New York State Council on Women and Girls, said in a statement released Monday. "Birth centers can serve as a safe alternative for low-risk pregnancies — relieving the strain on hospitals and providing a supportive environment for mothers during an already stressful time."

Midwives across the state of New York have seen an increase in demand for their services as more expectant mothers pursue home births or births in facilities not considered to be part of the traditional hospital health care system, The New York Times reported. One New York midwife told the paper requests for her services had jumped from eight births in the first three months of 2020 to more than 25 inquiries in April alone. The Brooklyn Birthing Center, a free-standing birthing center, reported seeing inquiries jump from roughly 15 calls a week to 200, according to The New York Times.

Among the task force's 15 members is Christy Turlington Burns, a well-known model who graced catwalks, fashion magazine covers, and a number of ad campaigns from the late 80s through the early 2000s. Turlington Burns began advocating for maternal health after a retained placenta caused complications during the birth of her daughter Grace in the fall of 2003. By 2010, Turlington Burns had founded Every Mother Counts, a non-profit committed to working toward making pregnancies and childbirth safe for every mother across the globe.

"Governor Cuomo and New York State have been national leaders in the fight against COVID-19 and the fact that they are prioritizing the health and safety of women and families during this crisis only further underscores that," Turlington Burns said in a press release. "I'm honored to be working with Melissa and the other members of this task force to urgently protect mothers and ensure women have much-needed safe birthing options."

Other members include Christa Christakis, the executive director of the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists District II, and Sascha James-Conterelli, the president of the NYSAssociation of Licensed Midwives. According to Cuomo's office, the task force will present their recommendations for authorizing and certifying additional birthing centers by the end of the week.

The task force will then maintain an ad hoc status as the state continues to battle the coronavirus pandemic, assembling when necessary to address any COVID-19 issues related to pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.