UPDATE 9th April 2020
Thank you very much to those who signed.
As the days of social distancing unfolded, and following feedback from expectant parents and those who had just given birth, plus helpful input from a few people working in midwifery for the NHS, it became apparent that the situation differed greatly county to county, and even just hospital to hospital; and that sadly the below idea seemed not to be a good fit for many. If it seems in future that the requests outlined below are viable and wanted, I will push forward with promoting the petition again.
1st April 2020
Due to the unknown impact of Covid 19 on pregnant women, they are currently considered in a high risk category, making this an incredibly stressful time to be expecting a baby.
To add to the worry, with the NHS under pressure due to coronavirus, more than a fifth of heads of midwifery say their local maternity units have been closed, while homebirth services have been withdrawn or restricted in more than a third of areas, according to a survey by the Royal College of Midwives. To reduce footfall in hospitals to try to lower the risk of infection, it is being reported that some hospitals will have a rule that women have to labour without their birth partner until in ‘active labour’ (3-4cm dilated; this can take many hours), and may not be allowed visitors (including their partner) on the the postnatal ward.
The importance of a birth partner to act as supporter and advocate for a labouring mother is vital; practical help and emotional support immediately after the birth are also a proven reducer in PTSD and postnatal depression, not to mention enabling the non birthing parent and baby to bond.
Moreover, pregnant women are being put at greater risk of contracting the virus currently by visiting hospitals for their prenatal check ups and scans.
Please sign to request the UK government move to convert hotels, currently closed during the pandemic, into pop up birthing and prenatal centres.
Where freestanding midwifery units are unavailable, pop-up birth centres could be quickly established close to hospitals, something the UK-based Midwifery Unit Network (MUN) has recommended in statement sent to more than 100 stakeholders. The recommendation, supported by a group of academics, is based on a Dutch model where midwife teams have equipped hotels – closed amid the pandemic – as birth centres. Lucia Rocca-Ihenacho, the chief executive of MUN, said: “We could be creating pop-up birth centres like the Dutch. They could be set up in a couple of days using the same equipment used by homebirth teams. “This is a proactive way to prepare for a crisis, rather than centralising births in obstetric units.” The proposal includes working with independent midwives, midwifery students, retired midwives and doulas to support the NHS.
It’s appreciated that the government are busy acting with unprecedented speed to create field hospitals for Covid 19 patients and that this was needed as a matter of priority. However let’s also ensure a supported and safer environment for expecting parents, and a safer place for their caregivers too, during this crisis.
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