Blog: delivering babies during a pandemic
Throughout this current national lockdown, it has been essentially business as usual for the maternity service at the Trust.
We want to reassure women that we are working hard by constantly reviewing the latest professional guidance to ensure that women receive the best possible care and experience.
The hospital has closely followed advice and guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Midwives to ensure that high quality pregnancy care is delivered in a way that reduces the risk of transmission of Covid-19 to women, their partners and new born babies. This has meant that several adaptions to care delivery have been implemented, including some restrictions to partners attending antenatal appointments, pregnancy scans and ward visiting.
We cannot begin to imagine how stressful these changes must be for pregnant mothers, their partners and family members. Currently the birthing partner is invited to attend the dating scan in the first trimester and the second trimester anatomy scan (also early pregnancy assessment, fetal medicine and rainbow clinics). Antenatal and postnatal ward visiting between 2pm and 6pm and unrestricted accompaniment during labour is also taking place.
During inpatient admission or review on the delivery suite, the mother and her birth partner undergo Covid-19 swabs to ensure appropriate infection measures and control are in place along with social distancing. Face masks are only requested once a woman leaves her bed space and there are plenty of wall mounted hand sanitiser dispensers for all in the maternity service to use.
As part of antenatal care, the other main change has been the use of phone and virtual consultation in place of the more traditional face to face contact. This has challenged mothers, their partners as well as maternity health care professionals and we hope that once we are through the other side of the pandemic, we will be able to return to the more ‘normal’ way of delivering care. Our maternity records are now electronic, so this has meant that all healthcare professionals should be able to review all relevant maternity documentation at the time of these remote consultations.
Another challenge has been the space to deliver the care. We have lost some of the community estate, so rather than being seen in a local GP surgery, women have made the trip to the hospital to receive routine appointments with community midwives. We share the frustration with mothers and their family members that care could not be delivered closer to home and the women’s and children’s’ operational team are working hard to secure community hubs to resume this care delivery in more convenient locations.
We do have insight from feedback given to us that some changes are difficult and naturally cause some anxiety and concern. We hope we have learned from the experience of the first lockdown and tried to offer the least restrictive service possible.
We would like to reassure women that if they are anxious that they should contact their community midwife for support. This might include referral to our well established perinatal mental health team for additional mental health input. Service providers and users are in this unique situation together and we are keen to work in partnership to strengthen our relationships and shape the future of the service.
Dr Anna Haestier, Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist and Chief of the Maternity service at NNUH