Birth during COVID-19: Women’s stories of maternity care through the pandemic

We spoke to women who gave birth at King's during lockdown to explore in more depth how mothers have been affected by the pandemic focusing on their experiences of maternity care services during pregnancy, birth, and the early postnatal period.
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What was the project about?

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the reorganisation of maternity care services to minimise the spread of the virus. We were approached by women who wanted to share their feedback about their birth at Kings during the lockdown restrictions. Building on this, we conducted research to explore in more depth how mothers have been affected by the pandemic focusing on their experiences of maternity care services during pregnancy, birth, and the early postnatal period.

What we did

We spoke to 14 women who had given birth at Kings College Hospital between 1st April 2020 and 5th November 2020. The interviews took place over the telephone or via zoom after publicising the research through word of mouth and social media channels. Women were asked about their prenatal experience, to share their birth stories, and about their experience of post-natal care in the hospital and in the community.

The women we spoke to lived in 4 different boroughs and ranged in age between 29 and 44 years. 8 women had vaginal births whilst 6 had Caesarean sections. 8 women were first time mums and 6 were having their second baby or more.

What we heard

The findings indicated a broad range of experiences, both positive and negative:

  • Absence of partners was a key theme for women’s antenatal experiences, as well as their birth stories.

  • The professionalism of staff, and their commitment to provide a high standard of care in incredibly challenging circumstances was also recognised by the women we spoke to.

  • Several women felt that giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted their mental health and wellbeing, particularly first-time mums and those who had difficult births.

  • Women, primarily first-time mums, who wished to breastfeed felt they were not given adequate support.

  • A lack of suitable practical and emotional support postnatally was raised by many of the women, alongside intermittent and remote follow up after discharge from hospital.

  • The provision of postnatal follow-ups via the telephone meant that many women were able to hide their emotions and cues to mental wellbeing were not picked up.

Our recommendations

Our recommendations include:

  • To allow birth partners to be present at scans, appointments and inductions wherever possible.

  • To ensure there are sufficient staffing numbers postnatally to support women who may have less support due to restricted visiting hours.

  • For women to receive breastfeeding support to allow them to feel confident upon discharge to continue their feeding journey at home.

  • Postnatal support and follow up should be provide in person wherever possible. Where not possible, it should be via video call and from a midwife who knows the mother and her journey.

Next steps

  • We shared the full report with the 14 women we spoke to.

  • The report was sent to Kings College Hospital for dissemination, and shared with Kings Maternity Voices Partnership

  • We will follow up with Kings to see how they respond to our recommendations

Downloads

You can download the full report here

To request the report in an alternative format, please email info@healthwatchlambeth.org.uk

Covid Maternity report

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