Keeping women and their babies safe during lockdown

Women and their birth partners are being asked to observe safety measures at Hull Women and Children’s Hospital to prevent the need for further restrictions during the second lockdown.

Janet Cairns (centre), Head of Midwifery, with some of her senior team.
Janet Cairns (centre), Head of Midwifery, with some of her senior team. L-R Katie Headlam, Nicola Easby, Angela Rymer, Janet Cairns, Lorraine Cooper, Joanna Melia, Wendy McKenzie.

Birth partners will still be able to attend 20-week scans and be with their partners when they are admitted to the Labour Ward or the Fatima Allam Birth Centre. They will also be able to book one-hour visiting slots on antenatal and postnatal wards.

However, maternity leaders are asking women and their birth partners to co-operate with contact tracing, social distancing and safety precautions as England prepares to enter a second lockdown from Thursday until December 2.

Janet Cairns, Head of Midwifery at Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Everything we do is to keep women, their babies and our staff as safe as possible during the pandemic.

“We understand how difficult this situation is but we need everyone’s cooperation, patience and understanding to prevent the virus spreading.

“It is really important that women continue to access maternity services if they have any concerns. We are open 24/7, and we urge them to attend all their appointments. 

“But if women are experiencing any symptoms of Covid-19, they must let us know as soon as possible so we can make appropriate arrangements for them to be seen.” 

Birth partners must not come to hospital if they are showing any symptoms of Covid-19 such as a high temperature, a new, continuous cough or a loss or change to their sense of smell or taste. They should stay away from hospital if they have come into contact with anyone testing positive for the virus.

Women attending the antenatal clinic and antenatal day unit should follow the one-way system and the waiting area has been expanded into the former café to enable social distancing.

One birth partner can still attend the 20-week scan and women will be given details of how this will operate before attending the appointment.

Women staying overnight as an antenatal inpatient on Maple Ward can pre-book one-hour visits for one named birth partner with their midwife involved in their care on the ward. 

Women admitted to the Fatima Allam Birth Centre and Labour Ward can be accompanied by one named birth partner on admission, who must remain in the birth room at all times until their partner is either discharged home or transferred to the postnatal ward. 

Those women who need to stay in hospital after their babies are born can also pre-book a one-hour visit for their named birth partners.

In ward areas which allow visiting, only four birth partners can attend at any one time to protect women, their babies and hospital staff.

Women must give the contact details of their named birth partners to ward staff in advance and these will be kept for one month following the women’s discharge from hospital.

If they have symptoms of Covid-19, birth partners must stay at home, arrange a test and self-isolate in line with national guidance. If this happens, their partner will be supported to select another birth partner who must be part of their support bubble.

Staff will assess and support any woman with additional communication or care needs who may require more support.

For women giving birth at home, only the named birth partner can be in the room with the woman and the community midwife. Another family member from their support bubble can be in the house but not in the same room.

Parents with babies in Neonatal intensive Care are both allowed to visit the unit at any time but are asked to, where possible, limit themselves to one at the cot side as much as possible. They should wear hospital-provided masks and wash their hands regularly. Parents who think they may need a test for Covid-19 should speak to the neonatal nurse in charge.  All efforts are made to give parents the chance to be together with critically ill babies.

Anyone requiring more information on safety measures during lockdown should speak to their midwives or chat ‘virtually’ to a senior midwife via the Ask the Midwife on the Women and Children’s Facebook page. The live chat service is available Monday to Friday between 10am and noon and again between 2pm and 4pm.

Janet Cairns said: “Our measures will be kept under constant review and will not hesitate to bring in additional safety precautions should they become necessary.

“Until then, we ask everyone to wear face masks, wash their hands regularly, observe social distancing, stay at home when they can and only come to hospital when absolutely necessary.”

[Allison Coggan – Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust]