Covid’s impact on maternity issues

A woman in a bed hugging a baby and a young girl with blond hair.

Guest blog by Ellen Davies, event planner and mother of two

Ever since I was first pregnant (I found out the week before lockdown number one) the worry of the birth situation was at the forefront of my mind.

My husband was my absolute rock through my first labour. I was induced on a Wednesday and he slept in a chair beside me until she arrived at theatre on the Saturday. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’m sure you can guess that it wasn’t straight forward given it took three days and where it ended.

I then had a lot of post emergency section issues. Most of them embarrassingly intimate, which I’ve not been shy of sharing to those who want the gory details, but again it was he who provided the physical and mental support to get me through them.

Once I was home, I fortunately recovered really quickly and laughed off my birth story every time I told it, but listening to people’s accounts of dealing with labour through lockdown one was beginning to make me reflect on actually how traumatic the whole situation had been and how I didn’t want to do that alone in the future.

The second time around

I’ve never doubted how capable the doctors and nurses are and that they wouldn’t bat an eyelid at dealing with the things I went through should my husband not be able to be present, but that wasn’t the point, I wanted him there and he was also finding it very upsetting that he couldn’t so far be part of any of this second journey given he’d not missed a single appointment or scan the first time round.

As restrictions lifted and rules changed, the general pattern seemed to be that birth partners could be present through labour and with the addition of the family bubble, my mum would be okay to look after our existing daughter…something not allowed when this first unfolded. Great I thought. I can do this.

At week 36 of pregnancy I went in for a routine midwife appointment to be told my new little girl was measuring small. I had this with my first girl who, on a subsequent scan, then reveled to be an absolute giant, so I was nonchalant about the news thinking ‘oh yeah, here we go again’. However, on this follow-up scan, I was surprised to hear she genuinely had fallen below the trajectory line and so I was going to have to have two more scans and even closer monitoring.

On Thursday 12th November at 37+2 I had the first of two newly-planned scans. This was to check blood flow and oxygen levels – which were fine. What wasn’t fine, however, was that this little one had decided to move transverse (sideways in the womb).

‘Wow, I breed willful little girls,” was my first thought. My firstborn had been sideways for the entire pregnancy so at week 37 I had been admitted to hospital and told if she didn’t turn the right way within four days I’d have to have a section. She turned within a few hours of being admitted and I was packed off a day later with no baby, having just got my head round having her two weeks early. [Insert eye roll emoji here]

So as of lunchtime 12th November, I was throwing a different kind of hospital bag together (one for just me) and heading back to the familiar surroundings of my nearest maternity ward ensuring all my family I’d be home by the next day…..

….As I write this, still on my hospital bed, its Monday 16th November and this baby is not for turning! *

The impact of not seeing my child on my mental health

So why am I writing this? Since my arrival I’ve been witness to so many comings and goings. Some of who have wanted to chat, others keep themselves to themselves. Out of those who do share war stories, there’s only been one mother who hasn’t already got a child at home and that is where my problem is now lying.

We are absolutely desperate to get home to our already existing babies. I never foresaw this problem which is mentally straining for me in itself as I am a planner by trade and as such, I live for ‘what if’s and buts’ and never live in the present, always the future scenarios.

Having never been apart from my almost three-year-old for more than two nights, this is taking a serious toll on my mental health.

I’ve seen amazing action being taken by Pregnant than Screwed about birthing partners rights, and understandably that is a priority, but what about this?

I understand safety situations; I have been Covid tested and I’m not allowed off the ward. My husband is allowed in for two hours a day on a strict pre-bookable timeslot in which he stays in his mask and my bedside curtains are drawn, but I don’t understand why my child cannot?

I have seen comments about how us women should be grateful in the age of technology that we can keep in touch in ways our parent’s or grandparents weren’t able to. Yes that’s true, I can’t tell you how much FaceTime has kept me from plummeting altogether but no one in their right mind can think it’s the same to being able to hug and kiss your child on the daily?

It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions watching her on screen. I’ve felt relieved that she seems to be bonding better with her dad and I can see how much she’s now relying on him to bring the comfort rather than just the playtime fun, but there’s a weird jealousy that’s begun to creep in. Of course I don’t want her to be miserable and crying that I’m not present, but I’m beginning to watch her detach herself from me as she talks and I’m scared that when I do finally return (which at this rate could be another 10 days away) our sacred bond will be broken especially if my return involves the addition of the new baby.

I am also now dealing with conflicted birthing scenarios just so I can get back and see her. Due to the fact this baby is lying unsafely, until she rectifies that for two days solid I have to stay in. I am not allowed a section until I get to at least 39 weeks but I could go through the induction process from 38 weeks. This was something I had completely ruled out, scarred more than I realised, from the first time. Whilst I am fully aware it’s a different approach to the procedure and I know I am in excellent hands with all the staff here, its not something I wanted to do yet now I am contemplating it just to go home…again, this isn’t right.

The next step for birthing rights

I want to conclude by being clear that I fully support the NHS and this story is in by no means a personal slight on my experience.

As I’ve said a few times, the care level here is exceptional. I picked this hospital because I’d heard mixed reviews about my other choice and from the minute I arrived here three years ago I knew I’d made the right choice. The staff have changed since then but the level of personal touches I experience here has not and for that, I remain grateful. I don’t doubt for a second that if protocol changed tomorrow some of them would be almost as desperate to meet my little girl, as I am to hold her again. I’ve not stopped talking about her and all the staff have given me the time to do that, whether feigning interest or not.

This is a cathartic account of my feelings and a vain hope that it might spark enough interest to now make the next step to birthing rights of women that, which allows any that, need or want, to see their other children as well.


*I submitted this blog to Pregnant then Screwed in the hope Sarah and her team could raise awareness about this situation and Sarah kindly agreed to feature it. I wanted to therefore update readers on my own outcome.

My second little girl was born at 38+3 via planned section, 11 days earlier than due. The surgeons schedule meant they couldn’t fit in any planned sections from when I turned 39 weeks so the options were to stay until full term which would have been 21 days in hospital or to be allowed to have her early which I chose.

She was born safe and healthy and in the top care of all the NHS staff working in theatre around and on me and 10 days after being admitted, I could finally go home to be reunited with my first born the next day which was hugely emotional.

Due to my section, the re-bonding has still been tricky. I can’t manage a cuddle on my knee let alone a good playtime session but I am grateful to be home and supported so well by those around me.

The night before my planned surgery, another woman came onto the ward with an identical scenario to my own, this time with a little boy at home she was desperate to get back to. I was discharged three days later and at that point she was still there. It’s made me realise it’s a lot more common than I first thought and I really hope this reflection provides some sort of support to those who have or are going through the same.


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