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COVID-19 – Birth

Last modified 10th July 2020

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Getting to hospital

If you are advised to go to the maternity unit or hospital, pregnant women are asked to travel by private transport, or arrange hospital transport.

If you have Coronavirus symptoms, please alert the maternity unit reception once on the premises, before going into the hospital so that they can prepare the right support for you and the team looking after you.

Birth Partners

The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives have released a statement saying that birth partners should be encouraged during birth, as it makes a significant difference to the safety and well-being of women in childbirth. You will be asked to only bring one birth partner with you. Many NHS Trusts are asking partners not to attend antenatal visits and also to leave after the birth; however, this should not impact your birth.

If your chosen birth partner has had symptoms of Coronavirus in the past 7 days , they will not be allowed to go into the maternity suite, in order to protect other women and babies as well as NHS staff. Birth partners will be asked about symptoms when arriving.

Your birth partner may be asked to stay with you throughout and not go to other parts of the hospital. Your maternity team will let you know what is expected of you.

It is recommended that you have a second-choice birth partner in case your partner develops symptoms.


Precautionary Measures

In the weeks leading up to your due date, it may be a good idea for you and your partner to self-isolate in order to avoid getting the virus. Try to get your shopping delivered by companies, family, or friends. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling the shopping.

Wash your hands every two hours, even if you’re not leaving the house. If you are required to go into the unit to have any checks, then please do so. You will be asked to attend any antenatal appointments alone in most cases.


Rare Cases 

Your maternity team will do everything they can to make sure your birth partner can be with you during labour and the birth.

There will be rare occasions when there is a need for an urgent emergency birth with epidural or spinal anaesthetic, which your birth partner cannot be present for. This is to prevent the potential spread of coronavirus to everyone present in the operating theatre, which become much more high-risk environments during emergencies.

Your maternity team will do everything they can to make sure that your birth partner can see you and your baby as soon as possible after the birth.

Care in labour – with no Coronavirus symptoms

Your maternity team will do everything they can to respect your birth choices, as well as protect the wellbeing of you and your baby. If your birth partner does not have Coronavirus symptoms, then they will be allowed to attend your birth. If your first-choice birth partner does have symptoms, it might be worth thinking of another birth partner that can be with you.

You may have your temperature checked and be asked about Coronavirus symptoms as you arrive at the maternity unit.

Your team may be wearing protective clothing, including face masks – please do not let this alarm you. This is to protect them and you.

Care in labour - with Coronavirus symptoms

Women who have symptoms of Coronavirus are being requested to birth in the hospital – your team will give you more information about local services. This is so that the baby’s heart can be monitored, and that your oxygen levels can be monitored hourly. These measures are precautionary and can only take place in the hospital where both doctors and midwives are present.

There is currently no evidence to suggest that you should not give birth vaginally, or that a Caesarean section would be safer. If you do have difficulty breathing or your team is concerned then they may recommend that you have a Caesarean section – this will be communicated to you.

There is a chance that Coronavirus could be passed onto a baby in the womb, but the evidence of this is very limited. Your maternity team will be practising very strict infection control measures, and a neonatal team will be on hand if your baby has suspected Coronavirus to provide care.

Home Birth

Home births and midwifery-led units that are not co-located with an obstetric unit rely on ambulance services to transfer to hospital if more support is needed; therefore, some of these services may have been limited in your local area due to staff shortages and additional pressure on the ambulance service. Please check with your local team – this is to ensure you have the care you might need.

If you have Coronavirus symptoms, it is recommended that you give birth in the hospital, so that you and your baby can be monitored by doctors and midwives.

If your local maternity team is still able to provide you with a home birth, then it is worth asking them how to best prepare and what may have changed.

Water Birth

If you have Coronavirus symptoms then it is not recommended that you have a water birth, as the virus can be found in faeces, and this could pass to your baby in the water. Water births may also limit your team’s protective equipment.

If you have no symptoms, your maternity team will let you know if this is a service that they can offer at this time and if anything may have changed.

Can I still have pain relief?

There is no evidence currently that you cannot use gas and air (Entonox) or have an epidural or spinal block during labour, and this is the same if you have Coronavirus symptoms.

What if I'm induced?

Birth Partners During Induction 

If you are induced, your birth partner should be able to stay with you if there are facilities for you both to be in a single room; however, if the induction ward is a bay of beds it will not be possible to maintain social distancing measures.

Your birth partner will still be with you during labour and birth as you will be moved to your own room.

Please be aware that this only applies to birth partners who have no symptoms of coronavirus at that time or in the previous 7 days.


Testing Before an Induction 

To minimise the spread of coronavirus in hospitals, testing is being expanded to include all patients admitted to hospital. You do not need coronavirus symptoms to be tested.

If you are having a planned, elective induction you may be asked to self-isolate and offered a test beforehand (depending on local facilities and cases of coronavirus). Your maternity team will talk to you about this.



Caesarean Section

Testing Prior to an Elective Caesarean Section

To minimise the spread of coronavirus in hospitals, testing is being expanded to include all patients admitted to hospital. You do not need coronavirus symptoms to be tested.

If you are having a planned, elective caesarean section you may be asked to self-isolate and offered a test beforehand (depending on local facilities and cases of coronavirus). Your maternity team will talk to you about this.

Birth Partners During Caesarean 

Your birth partner will be able to be with you for your Caesarean section, as long as they are not unwell or if local guidance prevents it. If you’re worried, please do ask your maternity team.

If you require a general anaesthetic (which is rare) then your birth partner will be asked to leave the theatre – this is not specific to infection control during the coronavirus pandemic and does usually happen for safety reasons.

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