We have been hearing from many pregnant people that they are feeling confused and anxious about changes to maternity services due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are confused about why home birthing services have been stopped. There is also confusion about the rules for partners attending routine scans and whilst labour is in progress.
See below for the current rules and guidelines as of 12th January 2021. Please be aware, rules are constantly being updated and may change. Talk to your midwife for the most up to date information and to share any concerns you have about giving birth at this time.
‘I want a home birth. Why am I being told to come into hospital to have my baby now?’
Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has taken the difficult decision to stop home birthing. Whilst most home births go well, there is always a chance that an ambulance may need to be called. With the current pandemic, the ambulance service cannot guarantee to get to home births in time if something goes wrong. The outcome of a delayed ambulance could be life-threatening, so it is safer to be in hospital during this period with support services immediately to hand.
This is not about staffing. Access to critical care outside of hospital is stretched because of the volume of people very ill with COVID-19. For the same reason, people may be putting their babies and themselves at risk if they attempt free birthing (e.g. without any assistance).
Our understanding is that NHS England will be issuing further guidance and we’ll update you when they do.
‘Can my partner come to my routine scan?’
Birth partners are welcome at early pregnancy scans (where women have pain or bleeding for example), 12 and 20-week scans and also to fetal movement appointments where there may be a problem with the baby.
‘We cannot support partner attendance at routine growth scans due to the size of the clinical areas and our inability to socially distance. Any solutions we have looked at (partners queuing outside the hospital for example) would lead to delays in scans and long waits (with associated increased exposure and risk of overcrowding as clinics get ‘backed up’).’
– Caroline Ross, Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
‘Can my partner be with me while I give birth?’
Partners are welcome at any time when a woman is on a labour ward. You can have up to two birthing partners who can take it in turns to support you. Only one partner can be in the delivery suite with you at a time due to social distancing measures. And only one birth partner can be on the unit at any time as there are no waiting areas available.
‘Should I be shielding when pregnant?’
The guidance has changed for pregnant women and only ‘women who are pregnant with significant heart disease, congenital or acquired’ now come under the Clinically Extremely Vulnerable group that should shield.
All other pregnant women and their partners/households should follow the governments National Lockdown - Stay at Home guidance.