Coronavirus can affect plans for birth including guidance for birth partners. Here we talk through what changes you might expect and what to think about ahead of the birth.
Having a supportive birthing partner can make a huge difference to a woman’s birth experience. It can help give them a sense of control and comfort (RCM, 2020).
But how will coronavirus affect birth partners? We provide an outline below but do keep talking to your midwifery team to stay up-to-date with developments.
You might find it useful to watch this NHS video about your care during your pregnancy and labour:
What’s the latest advice for birth partners during the coronavirus pandemic?
On 5 June, the NHS changed its guidance on hospital visiting. This means that visiting is now subject to local discretion by Trusts and other NHS bodies so check with your maternity team and sonography unit for their policy on whether you can attend antenatal appointments, including scans (RCOG, 2020). You will be asked to wear a mask or face covering when entering a hospital (RCM, 2020).
It’s important to note that this shouldn’t apply to a partner being in the labour and birth room (RCM, 2020).
Every woman should be able to have one birth partner stay with her through labour and birth, unless the birth happens under a general anaesthetic (RCOG, 2020).
What if my birth partner has any symptoms?
To help prevent the spread of coronavirus, it’s very important that you don’t attend the maternity unit if you have any symptoms of coronavirus or have had any in the previous seven days (RCOG, 2020).
Maternity teams are therefore encouraging women and their current birth partner to think of another birth partner as a back up (RCOG, 2020).
What will happen during labour?
If you are supporting a woman during labour and birth, there will be strict infection control procedures in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus to other pregnant women and their babies, as well as other people within the hospital and maternity staff (RCOG, 2020).
You will be asked to follow these guidelines:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, and use hand sanitiser gel in clinical areas, as available.
- If you cough or sneeze, cover your mouth with a tissue and dispose of this in a bin immediately.
- Stay in the labour room with the woman you are supporting. You won’t be able to move/walk around the labour ward unaccompanied. There will be a call bell if you require assistance.
- If you are asked to a wear a mask or any personal protective equipment (PPE) during the labour or birth, please follow the instructions carefully, and take it off before you leave the clinical area.
What happens during a caesarean birth?
If your partner is having a caesarean birth, operating theatre staff will be wearing PPE and it may be more difficult for them to communicate with you. A specific staff member will support you though. You’ll be advised to follow their instructions and talk to them if you have any questions (RCOG, 2020).
To enable the clinical staff to do their job, it’s very important that you don’t move around the operating theatre as you risk de-sterilising sterile areas and spreading the virus (RCOG, 2020).
Your maternity team will do everything they can to make sure you can be present for the birth. However, if there is a particular safety concern, they may ask that you are not present in the operating theatre. If this is the case, the team should discuss this with you and explain their reasons unless it is an emergency (RCOG, 2020).
Where do I get information about coronavirus for birth partners?
The expert guidelines and understanding about COVID-19 is changing on a daily basis. To make sure you have the most reliable information, please check the RCOG website.
The guidance includes answers to a range of questions such as:
- Will I be able to have my birth partner with me if I am being induced?
- Will my birth partner be able to stay with me if I have a caesarean or assisted delivery that happens in an operating theatre?
- Will I be able to have my birth partner with me on the postnatal ward?
During this time, your maternity team will do all they can to provide information, guidance and support to you and your partner.
Page last reviewed: 13 July 2020
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The RCM has produced this helpful FAQ with advice and information on different aspects of pregnancy and birth for women and their families.
For more information and updates about birth and the coronavirus, see the RCOG website.
For more information about coronavirus in various languages see here.
RCM. (2020) Advice for pregnant women. Available at: https://www.rcm.org.uk/advice-for-pregnant-women/ (accessed 20 April 2020)
RCOG. (2020) Coronavirus infection and pregnancy. Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/ (accessed 20 April 2020)