New mothers felt more alone at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust during pandemic

Removal of partners caused extreme anxiety

By Reporter
Thursday, 24th February 2022, 12:15 pm

Women giving birth at Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust felt more isolated during the coronavirus pandemic, a survey suggests.

The National Childbirth Trust said the removal of support from partners or family members as a result of Covid-19 restrictions caused extreme anxiety and fear for expectant mothers.

The Care Quality Commission polled 23,000 women aged 16 and over across England who gave birth in February 2021 on their experience of maternity services – including 317 at Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Mothers gave Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust a score of five out of 10 for how much they saw or spoke to a midwife

Patients were asked a range of questions and gave a score between 0 – indicating a very negative experience – and 10, representing the best possible result.

When asked if their partner or someone else was able to stay with them as much as they wanted, mothers gave Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust an average score of 5.8 out of 10.

This was down from 8.3 in 2019 – the last time the survey was held – and suggests women felt more alone during their pregnancy while Covid-related restrictions were in place nationally.

There is no further breakdown between the two hospitals - Bedford and Luton & Dunstable.

Across England as a whole, a score of 3.5 was awarded for the same question, compared to 7.5 two years earlier.

Just 34 per cent of women said their partner was able to be with them as much as they wished – down significantly from 74 per cent two years earlier, and the lowest proportion on record.

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at the NCT, said: "The impact of the removal of this support and advocacy can be immense.

"We have heard reports of women experiencing extreme anxiety, fear and isolation as a result."

Just 61 per cent of women nationally said they saw or spoke to a midwife as much as they wanted during the postnatal period, which Ms Duff said is an area of great concern.

She added: "This is an exceptionally vulnerable time for mothers and babies, so this lack of access to help risked real danger to both at a time when support from family and friends was more restricted too due to lockdowns."

Mothers gave Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust a score of five out of 10 for how much they saw or spoke to a midwife, and 7.9 for whether they received the help needed from a midwifery team.

Meanwhile, the trust was given a score of ​eight for its mental health support.

Despite restrictions in place, almost all of the women polled across England said they were treated with respect and dignity, and that they had confidence and trust in staff.

The Royal College of Midwives praised the hard work of midwives under "immense pressure", but said severe staff shortages meant one in five women were not offered a choice of where to have their baby.

Birte Harlev-lam, executive director midwife at the RCM, welcomed the Government’s commitment to recruit midwives but warned England desperately needs thousands more.

She added: "If the shortage is not urgently addressed and prioritised, our maternity services will continue to struggle to support women.

"More midwives mean women will get the care, time and support they truly deserve.”

The Department for Health and Social Care said the number of NHS midwives has increased by more than 12 per cent% since 2010 and it is aiming to hire an additional 1,200.