Thousands of mums still face anguish of giving birth alone due to Covid restrictions
Bob Warman speaks to MP Alicia Kearns who led a national campaign for birth partners to be allowed to attend all maternity appointments
Thousands of pregnant women are still facing the risk of giving birth alone due to rules that were introduced in hospitals at the start of lockdown.
Throughout the pandemic, many women have faced scans and hospital appointments alone, while partners have only been allowed to accompany them during the latter stages of labour meaning that some have missed the birth altogether. However, despite a nationwide easing of lockdown restrictions, many hospitals still haven't changed their policies for pregnant women.
At the peak of the UK's national lockdown in May, Laura Wright from Toton in Nottinghamshire had her first baby, Charlotte. Restrictions both then and now mean she's often felt isolated.
A petition asking the government to re-consider the coronavirus rules around pregnancy and birth has received more than 400,000 signatures online. Alongside it, the hash tag #butnotmaternity, started by Doula Kicki Hansard, has been spread widely online, with many pointing out that you can meet friends at the pub, but in most cases still not have a partner present at an ultrasound scan.
MP for Rutland and Melton Alicia Kearns, who is currently pregnant, recently wrote an open letter to NHS trusts - which has been signed by 60 MPs - demanding that maternity restrictions are immediately loosened.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has since publicly said that he agrees that birth partners should be able to attend births, and that the health department will take the matter forward.
Earlier this month (September), NHS England published a framework for hospitals to allow them to gradually allow birthing partners and visitors to attend to births and antenatal appointments as well as being allowed to visit inpatient wards.
The guidance is not mandatory but it does allow hospitals to loosen restrictions if they choose to. However it does warn:
"Pausing the reintroduction of visitors, or reversal back to more stringent restrictions, may be warranted in response to the local or national transmission risk, or if a recent increase in the number of visitors was unsafe."