Hospitals and health boards across Wales are changing their procedures and services for pregnant women during the coronavirus outbreak.
With hospitals limiting visitors to maternity wards to minimise the risks of spreading coronavirus, what are the latest changes in place to keep pregnant women and staff safe?
Helen Rogers, The Royal College of Midwives Director for Wales, has answered questions and concerns many mums-to-be have at this time.
What is the current advice for pregnant women in wales?
For the first two trimesters, pregnant women are no more at risk than other women or the general population, but you still need to be extra cautious. However, in the third trimester women are more at risk because their immune system is weaker.
For health workers who are pregnant, we advise no face to face contact with patients after 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Do all pregnant women have to self isolate/social distance for 12 weeks?
Yes. All pregnant women should be following standard government advice. Social distance. Go out as little as possible, no social gatherings, and wash your hands frequently.
What’s happening with antenatal appointments and scans? Are they still going ahead? Can my partner come?
Services are changing by the day, with reduced staffing levels. Some services will be cut back. Anything that’s unnecessary or can be delayed, a high percentage of those will be cut back. Scan appointments will be kept unless the woman is told otherwise. Unless absolutely necessary, women should attend these scans and antenatal appointments alone.
Can women still have home births?
They are still available but we need to look at every service across wales individually. Safety is paramount, so home births may not be possible because we may not be able to guarantee an ambulance would be available if a transfer to hospital is necessary. Or there may be fewer midwives available. There should be more discussions with midwives around this.
Can husbands continue to work or do they risk bringing the virus home?
It depends where they are working and what they are doing. We need to look at this on an individual basis. If a partner has symptoms, then that pregnant woman needs to inform her midwife or maternity team.
Will birth partners be allowed into the birthing unit?
At the moment, a birth partner is allowed in but I would advise pregnant women to make alternative arrangements in case their primary birth partner has symptoms.
Birthing partners will mainly only be allowed in during active labour. We want partners to be there for the birth, but they may need to wait at home and be phoned when the woman goes into active labour. We understand the importance of having someone there with you but every decision is for the safety of mum and baby and staff.
It’s an anxious time for a mum, especially for a first time mum - many women will feel very vulnerable and scared to face labour alone.
I know it’s hard. If a woman thinks she’s in labour, instead of coming in, ring in. She may be able to stay home a little longer and spends less time in the hospital. These decisions aren’t being made to be cruel or unhelpful, it is to keep everyone safe.
What happens if you’ve got a child at home already?
Make sure you have someone on standby - to either look after the child or help transport the pregnant woman to hospital. Once on the ward, partners will be asked to leave the hospital until the mum and baby are ready to come home. Most wards are restricting siblings/children from visiting.
Can you pass Coronavirus onto your unborn child?
The evidence isn’t clear at the moment. I don’t know of any cases where it has been passed on yet. However, if a women is worried, we want them to talk to their midwives and maternity team. We want to reassure them as much as possible.
How vulnerable are newborns to COVID-19?
There isn’t evidence that newborn babies are more at risk than the rest of the population.
What happens if you go into labour and you have symptoms of coronavirus?
You must inform the health professionals as soon as possible and before you travel to where you’re going to go to give birth so steps can be put in place to keep you and workers safe. No woman will be giving birth on her own in a hospital but we would keep the woman isolated on arrival and provide the right protective gear to midwives.
Cardiff and the Vale health board have provided a video explaining support given to women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
Is there a midwife shortage - what effect will that have?
Normal staffing levels are currently good in Wales and we have the appropriate number of midwives but we have a number of midwives who are self isolating. We are seeing services being stretched. Some of the midwife led units have been closed or re-configured but it’s all to ensure we have a service that is as safe as possible.
What’s your advice to women who are concerned and worried about this time?
There is going to be heightened concern and anxiety. Talk about concerns or worries with your maternity care providers. Keep in touch with your midwife and your obstetric carer. The midwives in Wales are a fantastic group and they are doing everything possible to make sure birth is a positive experience for everyone.