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Scots joint uni study details impact of Covid restrictions on pregnant women and maternity staff

A NEW joint study by two Scottish universities has revealed the effect that Covid restrictions have had on pregnant woman and maternity staff.

The study, by the universities of Aberdeen and Dundee, has found that pregnant women were often left feeling isolated and anxious both during and post-birth.

The study looked at the wide range of aspects of changes in the provision of maternity care during the pandemic and their impacts on patients and staff.

Results showed that overall, care during labour and after the birth was well received by the vast majority of women.

A pregnant woman holing her belly.
The study revealed that pregnant women frequently felt isolated and anxious during and post-birth. Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

86% rated their care during labour as excellent or good whilst 76% rated their post-birth care as excellent or good.

However, the findings also revealed that substantial stress was caused by women not having birthing partners present at various points during antenatal and postnatal care, and during the early stages of labour.

Among women responding to the survey, most (89%) reported attending antenatal appointments alone, with 67% reporting feeling uncomfortable with this.

After giving birth, just under 75% of women felt they should have been able to have their partner/a supportive person with them more often in the postnatal ward.

Many women noted that restrictions around partners being with them after the birth had felt excessive, and the rationale for the restrictions not well communicated.

Researchers surveyed and interviewed more than 2,500 women and birthing people, and more than 450 maternity staff who used or were working in maternity services from June 2020 – July 2021.

The study also revealed Covid restrictions impacted connections between women and healthcare workers, with 40% saying that telephone appointments stopped them from building a good relationship with their midwife or doctor.

Some examples of excellent, innovative, or supportive care were described, where midwives in particular went out of their way to provide personalised support to women.

Appointments at home were very well received, with postnatal care at home described very positively as being family-centred.

Four out of five staff who witnessed an increase in outpatient induction of labour would like to see this remain in the longer-term – with this change linked to increased job satisfaction for 45% of staff.

Dr Mairead Black of the University of Aberdeen who co-led the study, said: “This wide-ranging study reveals a lot about the impact that Covid restrictions had on maternity service users and staff.

“One of the clearest disadvantages of the restrictions centred around women not being able to have a partner with them as much as they would have liked.

“Many women told us that knowing in advance that their birth partner would not be able to accompany them to scans or in early labour led to great anxiety, as well as when it actually happened.

“The need to physically distance and replace in-person visits with phone or video calls has led some to feel they had a lesser relationship with their doctor or midwife, and staff too have reported a frustration and conflict between what they were allowed to do and what they would normally do to support a pregnant woman and her partner.

“Having said that, overall, many women were complimentary of the service they received and some aspects of the maternity service that were forced to change in order to meet Covid requirements have actually been well received by women and staff alike and may well remain, in some form, post-Covid.”

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