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The impact of maternity service restrictions related to COVID-19 on women's experiences of giving birth in England: A qualitative study

Irvine, Lucy C; Chisnall, Georgia; Vindrola-Padros, Cecilia; (2024) The impact of maternity service restrictions related to COVID-19 on women's experiences of giving birth in England: A qualitative study. Midwifery , 128 , Article 103887. 10.1016/j.midw.2023.103887. Green open access

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Abstract

BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic led to significant changes in maternity service delivery in England, including: antenatal appointments being cancelled or held by phone; women having to attend antenatal scans alone; partners not being allowed to accompany women during labor; visitor restrictions on postnatal wards; and limited postnatal support. METHODS: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 46 women aged 18–45 who had low-risk pregnancies and gave birth to their babies using NHS services in England between 1st March 2020 and 1st March 2021. RESULTS: Our thematic analysis of interview data generated key themes: profound negative impacts of birth partners not being allowed to accompany women (including on emotional wellbeing, birth preferences and care-seeking choices); deep frustration about policy variation between trusts and inconsistent implementation of guidance; women being more concerned about the risk of giving birth alone than of COVID-19 infection; and women turning towards private care or delaying seeking NHS care so that they could have the birth experience they desired. The latter two results are, to the best of our knowledge, unique to this paper. CONCLUSION: Our participants reported significant negative affects to their emotional and physical wellbeing because of maternity service restrictions. Going forward, efforts are required by policymakers and health service providers to re-establish trust in NHS maternity care and ensure capacity to provide for potential shifts in birthplace preferences. Health systems strengthening efforts should prioritise protecting the rights of women to access high quality, person-centred care in the event of future health emergencies that strain NHS capacity.

Type: Article
Title: The impact of maternity service restrictions related to COVID-19 on women's experiences of giving birth in England: A qualitative study
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.midw.2023.103887
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2023.103887
Language: English
Additional information: © 2023 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. under a Creative Commons license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Maternity services, COVID-19, Policy, Pregnancy, Place of birth, Birth partners
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Surgery and Interventional Sci
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Population Health Sciences > Institute for Global Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Div of Surgery and Interventional Sci > Department of Targeted Intervention
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10182479
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