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Covid19 is forcing lone births in the UK

October 21, 2020
topic:Women's rights
tags:#COVID-19, #social distancing, #Mental health, #pregnancy
located:United Kingdom
by:Federica Tedeschi
Post-natal depression affects around 65% of women, according to UK Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (PANDA).

A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in the USA has highlighted elevated anxiety and depression symptoms compared to similar pre-pandemic pregnancy cohorts, with participants reporting clinically relevant symptoms of depression and clinically relevant symptoms of anxiety in 37% and 57% of the cases, respectively (Data published by the US National Library of Medicine, August 2020).

Forthcoming UK Data are expected to be quite similar. Since the initial outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic in March [2020], in fact, mothers have been forbidden from taking a partner with them to scans and appointments.

The rules state that although women do not have to labour alone, partners can only be at the mother’s bedside when she is at least 4cm dilated. And they are not allowed in for the start of an induction or the pre-C-section surgery preparation. The list of restrictions also comprises visits back to the hospital in the coming days, should the mother need to stay longer.

As a consequence, a plethora of women have been sharing traumatic experiences of being in labour and giving birth without a loved one by their side at any stage, not to mention those women who have experienced complications or even stillbirth without the presence of a birth partner.

Restrictions not evenly applied

The problem was broadly examined and discussed during the LBC London radio programme on September 13th, when several women who had given birth during the pandemic as well as mums-to-be, were invited to describe their unpleasant and sometimes traumatic experiences over the last few months.

While those restrictions who force women to go into labour alone were reasonable during the peak of the pandemic, they raise questions now that a limited number of people can gather at funerals, weddings, and places of worship. Also, pubs have reopened up and down the country.

So, why are thousands of mothers to be in the UK forced to endure labour alone, even when their birth partner lives in the same address? Wouldn’t the correct PPE do the job as it is the case at all allowed gatherings in the UK?

Moreover, restrictions are not evenly applied across the country, due to the absence of a national guidebook. Some hospitals, for instance, allow the chosen partner for the whole birth, as well as scans and appointments and ‘it’s just not right’, according to Holly Avis, who opted for a home birth during the pandemic, so as to not have her baby alone.

She launched the petition ‘Partners allowed for entirety of labour/birth in ALL hospitals’, in September and the document, which has almost reached the 500,000-signature target, was addressed to Health Minister Matt Hancock, NHS England and NHS trusts.

We need these restrictions to change. It’s absolutely ludicrous to have shops open, to allow socialising in bubbles of 6 people that do not live together, but keep this rule in place, especially when it’s a total postcode lottery as to what rule is in place for you,” stressed Ms Avis.

During the summer both the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) worked together with NHS England and the Society and College of Radiographers to complete draft guidance on the new social distancing rules on maternity wards.

Both colleges have described as ‘unacceptable’ the NHS delay in publishing the new final framework on partners attending births, scans and other ante- and postnatal appointments, as it is causing confusion and stress.

“We recognise that there is the need to vary local rules depending on circumstances, such as staffing levels and locally-imposed restrictions due to rising levels of COVID, but we urge NHS England to stop the delay and publish the guidance for all concerned,” highlighted RCM CEO Gill Walton in September.

Human rights violation claimed

At around the same time Ms Avis launched her petition, BirthBliss Academy started a campaign to remove restrictions in maternity, after having expressed concerns around Covid-19 and maternal mental health.

BirthBliss Academy’s doulas* channel their energies into constantly supporting the birthing rights of all women and pregnant people.

In their open letter to Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Whitty, to Mr. Hancock and to NHS England, they expressed concern about the legitimacy of such restrictions and said: “We believe that human rights are being violated and the health and well-being of parents and their babies is being carelessly flaunted. Human rights law requires that any decisions regarding restrictions on women’s rights are proportionate and are taken as transparently as possible. We believe that NHS England have not considered all options when continuing to enact these changes to our maternity care”.

Meanwhile, Tory MP Alicia Kearns is leading a group of 60 MPs in calling on NHS Trusts across the country to ensure no woman goes through pregnancy scans or labour without the presence of a birth partner.

*A doula is a person, usually a woman experienced in childbirth, who provides continuous physical, emotional, and informational support before, during and just after childbirth.

This article reports facts as of 30th September 2020.

Article written by:
Federica Tedeschi
United Kingdom
Embed from Getty Images
A study highlighted elevated anxiety and depression symptoms compared to similar pre-pandemic pregnancy cohorts.
Embed from Getty Images
Since the initial outbreak of the Covid-19 Pandemic in March [2020], in fact, mothers have been forbidden from taking a partner with them to scans and appointments.
Embed from Getty Images
While those restrictions who force women to go into labour alone were reasonable during the peak of the pandemic, they raise questions now.
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