Labour and Birth in the midst of the Coronavirus Pandemic

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A pregnant mother and her husband holding her baby bump

What do we know for sure about giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic in the UK?

Although procedures are similar between each hospital it is important to contact your local labour ward and go through any questions you may have. Determining if your birth partner can be with you from the time you are admitted or only once active labour is established is important for preparation for mindset. It is important to accept that these safety measures may evolve each day.

Maternity services are still open. You may need to see your midwife for online appointments instead of in person and it is important to remember that you will still receive the care and support that you need throughout your pregnancy. Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to continue to attend all appointments for scans, blood pressure, urine checks and blood tests as planned. It is also vital to contact your midwife if you have any concerns, particularly around the movement of your baby, without delay.

NHS staff are working hard to deliver the best possible care so it is very important that you, and others in your household, do everything within your control to limit the exposure to coronavirus in preparation for entering the hospital once the time comes. It is vital to be up front and honest in your communication surrounding any potential symptoms so that the staff can take the necessary precautions to keep themselves safe and that they are able to continue care for others.

Preparing for labour and birth

Preparation for birth has often been full of research and planning. But now with the pandemic in full swing, it can feel as if it has taken on a new depth.

If you haven’t already considered hypnobirthing I would recommend doing a little research on the practice. Even if you don’t feel like it is the type of birth you would be comfortable with, some of the methods can be helpful if you are experiencing increased anxiety, worry or fear around the birth.

Affirmations repeated several times throughout the day can ease self-doubt and hesitation. Some to consider writing out and placing on mirrors, the fridge and doorways are –

  • Regardless of outside influences and circumstances, my body knows how to give birth and I can relax knowing that the experience will feel natural to me. 
  • I am strong, courageous and confident. 
  • I am facing pregnancy and birth without fear or worry. 
  • This is the right time for my baby to come into the world and bless my family. 
  • I deeply trust my instincts and my body to safely deliver.
  • I see the beauty and joy in the process.
  • I am empowered by my resilience. 

Reading positive birth stories of women who have been through the experience of labour during the Covid-19 pandemic can be really helpful. Many have been able to follow their original expectations closely even if their birth partner was unable to join them until active labour was established. 

The Freya Surge Timer app , designed by Siobhan Miller of the Positive Birth Company, is an app for measuring contractions and encouraging hypnobirthing techniques. 

What to expect during the birth

  • Birth partners are limited to one and in most cases they are unable to be present until active labour is established. This means that if you are in the hospital and are experiencing contractions, you are most likely going to have the company of your midwifery team only. Post birth, your partner will be able to stay a short time and return only once you are ready to be discharged. 
  • When you arrive at the labour ward it is important to expect many checks to ensure the safety of all staff and patients as well as yourself. Remember that this is to minimise the risk to everyone involved and you can feel reassured that the team is so thorough. 
  • The unit will be generally quiet and all staff will be in masks, even your midwife when you are in labour. Try to familiarise yourself so that you feel comfortable with the people around you.
  • You will not be permitted any visitors and once you arrive home. You should not have anyone from outside of your household come to visit. 

Although the whole experience can seem overwhelming try to remember that you have your baby and your wonderful and totally capable body with you.

Homebirth and Covid-19

The latest NHS advice is that they are only allowing one birth partner during this time. They have temporarily suspended their homebirth services. Any women who were booked with a homebirth team will be personally informed of the changes and will be able to give birth in a midwifery-led unit with a low risk pregnancy. The NHS are not providing water births but I have read many stories of women having this option. We can assume that this is dependent on staffing and availability. 

Anyone who chooses not to attend the Maternity Unit when in labour and opt to give birth at home are advised that due to increased demand on the NHS they are unable to guarantee the availability of a midwife to attend to you. Of course, the decision is at your discretion and your risk. 

The Royal College of Midwives is holding a Twitter Q&A for pregnant women on Thursday, 16th of April at 4pm. Questions in advance by direct message to the RCM via this twitter account @MidwivesRCM by 5pm on Tuesday, 14thof April.

Any questions can be sent via Instagram direct messaging or emailed to [email protected]

Millie P x