COVID-19 & Pregnancy

Information about Maternity Services and care during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Please make sure that you continue to attend your scheduled routine antenatal care when you are well. Do not reduce your number of visits without agreeing first with your maternity team.

Maternity care is essential and has been developed over many years to reduce complications in mothers and babies. There is a potential risk of harm to you and your baby if you don’t attend your appointments, even in the context of coronavirus.  If you cannot attend please let your midwife or maternity team know by using the contact numbers in your hand held notes given to you at booking. Maternity teams are all still working to provide this care for you and your baby.

It is very important that you contact your midwife or local maternity unit for advice regarding issues such as reduced fetal movements, bleeding, back pain, urinary tract infection (UTI) etc.

Contact details for maternity units in Greater Manchester and Eastern Cheshire (GM & EC) are at the end of the questions on this page.

Please see below for information on coronavirus (COVID-19). Please note services are changing daily in response to government and national guidelines. We will update this information as new information comes out.

UPDATE: New questions and answers have been added to the end of the page.

Contact details for maternity units in GM & EC are at the end of the questions. There are also links and numbers for further information and support at the very end of this page.

Routine midwife and consultant appointments – are they still happening? Is it one person only?

There might be a need to reduce the number of face-to-face antenatal visits you have. This will be communicated to you, and will be done as safely as possible, taking into account available evidence on the safe number of visits required. Please do not reduce your number of visits without agreeing so first with your maternity team. It is very important you still attend for antenatal care and the maternity teams are all still working to provide this care for you and your baby.

The visits will depend on how your pregnancy is progressing.  For many women, the number of routine visits will change and some of them will be ‘virtual’ or telephone contacts.  Others will be face to face with your midwife or obstetrician – this will vary by person and by maternity service. Your maternity team will be in touch to discuss your visits with you and might request that you attend on your own.

Please make sure to contact your midwife for advice regarding issues such as reduced fetal movements, bleeding, back pain, urinary tract infection (UTI) etc. It is important to communicate with your midwife if you feel worried.

If you are worried about a virtual appointment, please do tell your midwife when she contacts you.

Are telephone/video consultations available?

Yes, most maternity services are arranging for some appointments to be done by telephone or video conferencing if some observations like blood pressure, or tests like having your urine checked, are not needed at that time. Some appointments, for example certain scan appointments, will continue to be done on a face to face basis, so that the planned examination can take place.  Your midwife will be able to advise you of the approach each of your appointments will take.

If you wish to speak privately with your midwife – please let your midwife know of a time when you can be alone and are free to talk.

Should I still attend my scan? How do we safely attend scans? Can my partner attend?

The number of scans required is being reviewed in each maternity service, in line with national guidance.  Certain scans will still need to take place, for example your anomaly scan at around 20 weeks of pregnancy.  Your midwife will be able to advise you of which scan appointments you will need to keep and whether you should attend on your own. Please do not miss a booked scan appointment without contacting your midwife.

In order to support social distancing, partners are not able to attend scans at present but please speak to your midwife or sonographer about how you can use technology like smart phones to support this important moment in your pregnancy. You might want your partner to be in close communication with you via phone in case you need to speak to them.

What are you doing to keep me safe at my scan/appointment?

Scans and face to face appointments will be undertaken only when necessary.  In terms of safety when attending your scan, the national guidance around safe distancing whilst waiting and use of protective equipment (PPE) will be observed by staff.  Some procedures require the health practitioner to be closer than 2 metres, but protective equipment and infection control measures will be in place as advised by Public Health England. The health practitioner will introduce themselves to you so you will know their name and what they are going to do.

If I have any symptoms such as cough or temperature what happens to my routine antenatal care?

If you develop a temperature or a cough, or both, in pregnancy, you can use the NHS 111 or NHS 24 website to obtain advice about isolation, which you should follow in line with current regulations. However, please also be alert to the other possible causes of fever in pregnancy. In particular, these include urine infections (cystitis) and your waters breaking. If you have any burning or discomfort when passing urine, or any unusual vaginal discharge contact your maternity provider, who will be able to provide further advice.

It is also important if you have any concerns about your baby’s movements that you contact your maternity provider immediately and make them aware.

Before any face to face appointment, you will be contacted by your maternity team or you will be asked a few questions on arrival at clinic reception. You will be asked a few questions to determine whether you or anyone in your household are self-isolating or displaying signs of having contracted COVID-19 and they will advise you accordingly, including rearranging appointments where possible. Appointments will be rearranged safely for you and your baby as ongoing antenatal care is very important.

The Royal College of Obstetricians recommends that if you develop more severe symptoms or your recovery is delayed, this may be a sign that you are developing a more significant chest infection that requires enhanced care, and our advice remains that if you feel your symptoms are worsening or if you are not getting better you are recommended to contact the NHS on 111 (or a local alternative), or your maternity unit (using numbers given to you) straight away for further information and advice.

What do I do if I miss a routine appointment due to self-isolation due to COVID-19 symptoms?

Contact your midwife if you are self-isolating and your midwife will rearrange your appointment for as soon as possible. If you miss an appointment and haven’t heard from your maternity team, please contact them to rearrange the appointment.

Maternity care is essential and has been developed over many years to reduce complications in mothers and babies. There is a potential risk of harm to you and your baby if you don’t attend your appointments, even in the context of COVID-19. It is important that you keep in contact with your maternity team and continue to attend your scheduled routine care when you are well.

If I have COVID-19 symptoms and need urgent maternity care or advice (e.g. Reduced Fetal Movements, bleeding, see Tommy’s when to call the midwife infographic) what should I do?

If you have pregnancy related symptoms e.g. reduced fetal movements, bleeding etc. – please contact your maternity triage using the numbers you have been provided with.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, please contact NHS 111; if you have difficulty in getting through to NHS 111 you can contact your maternity team using the contact numbers you have been provided with. They will arrange the right place and time to come if a hospital attendance is required. You should not attend a routine clinic.

What if I have symptoms and underlying conditions that put me at additional risk – what should I do?

All pregnant women, regardless of gestation, should observe the social distancing guidance available on the Government website. Advice includes the avoidance of contact with people who are known to have COVID-19 or those who exhibit possible symptoms including high temperature and/or new and continuous cough.

Women above 28 weeks’ gestation are recommended to be particularly attentive to social distancing and minimising contact with others.

Major new measures have been announced for people at highest risk from COVID-19. This includes pregnant women with significant heart disease (congenital or acquired) see the RCOG website:

https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/

If you are having difficulty understanding the advice and information, please talk to your midwife or maternity team, using the contact numbers given to you.  If you have underlying conditions, or conditions of pregnancy that increase your level of risk, these will have been considered and arrangements put in place.  For some conditions, such as gestational diabetes, you might find that some monitoring appointments can be done via the telephone or video conferencing, rather than a face to face appointment.

Your midwife can also refer you to the NHS Volunteering service if you need help with shopping, picking up prescriptions etc.

I’m feeling very anxious. What can I do?

We recognise that this is a very anxious time for many people and whilst you are pregnant the situation can be very unsettling, especially when the usual sources of reassurance are not there.

Your midwife will be able to talk to you about some of your fears and your maternity service will also have a specialist midwife who supports women with mental health conditions including anxiety. If you are currently receiving care from specialist services, they will be contacting you to check if you are well or need additional support.

If you are not receiving any specialist care but wish to access some additional means of support in these difficult times, you will be able to use online resources that might help such as the Tommy’s mental wellbeing page for advice on taking care of yourself. The links to these and other resources are at the bottom of this page and may also be on your maternity unit internet page and it is worth going online to look at what is available.  Please remember to talk with your family and friends too about how you are feeling.

Are antenatal classes still going ahead or going online?

Currently antenatal classes are suspended.  A number of maternity units are preparing to put classes online and therefore you will need to contact your midwife to see what is available in your area.

In the meantime, if you cannot access local parent education, the NCT (National Childbirth Trust), the UK charity for parents, provides information for parents and parent education classes.  It has already changed its way of offering antenatal preparation courses, so provision is now online via live, interactive courses. The website is regularly updated and aligns with the advice from the Royal Colleges of Midwives, Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. For more information on virtual antenatal courses and to sign up for one, visit https://www.nct.org.uk/courses-workshops/nct-virtual-antenatal-course

How can I meet other mums in my area due at the same time as me?

It is reassuring to speak to other women in your position and there are several online resources that you might want to use, such as https://www.nct.org.uk/local-activities-meet-ups, with many local volunteer groups currently switching their support to a virtual offer in order to comply with social distancing advice.

In addition, some maternity services have established social media groups for women receiving care from their unit and you can ask your midwife if such a service is available in your area.

You may also find other local groups for new mothers on Facebook and in your community. Facemums is also an option, so please ask your midwife if this is available as part of your local maternity service.

Our Maternity Voice Partnership (MVP) Network have two Facebook groups:

If my partner can’t attend scans/appointments with me, can I use my mobile phone to involve them during the appointment/scan?

Most scan departments have taken into account that you will not have your partner with you as usual.  They have put different measures in place – for example giving you an additional scan photo or using smart phones.  Each scan department is different so you will need to check this beforehand so that you are prepared.

You may want to have a friend or partner waiting via a phone in case they are needed, or you want to speak to them.

I have severe anxiety/previous trauma/mental health issues and really need someone with me at my scan/appointment. Can you accommodate my request?

Your individual circumstances will be considered by your midwife and maternity team, especially where you are receiving specialist mental health support. Please contact your midwife and discuss what is permitted before your appointment, so that you can be supported whilst ensuring safety for you, your family and the wider population.

I don’t understand the information from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) as English isn’t my first language. Do you have an easy read or translated version?

If you are having difficulty understanding the advice and information, please talk to your midwife or maternity team, using the contact numbers given to you. You can also go to the Tommy’s website for information here, the Start for Life website for advice here, or the Bounty website for advice here.

For general COVID-19 advice in different languages, there are translated materials available on the Government website and Doctors of the World provide information in 46 different languages. 

I am a single parent and don’t have anyone who can look after my other children to allow me to attend my antenatal appointments alone. What can I do?

We do not recommend that children are taken to antenatal appointments.  We understand that this may be really hard for you, as schools are shut at the moment.  If you are unable to attend alone, please speak to your midwife who will try to arrange alternatives that fit your circumstances.

I am worried about domestic abuse, what can I do?

Please be aware that the household isolation instruction as a result of COVID-19 does not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is run by Refuge and offers free, confidential support 24 hours a day to victims and those who are worried about friends and loved ones.

Telephone: 0808 2000 247

For immediate support, call 999. If calling from a mobile, press 55 and the call will be connected to the police. If calling from a landline and only background noise can be heard and operators cannot decide whether an emergency service is needed, then you will be connected to a police call handler.

Can I still take my own personal items into hospital for labour like my pillow, home comforts?

Yes, you can still take items into hospital that will help you to relax and feel comfortable.  Please keep the items with you at all times and when finished using them ask your partner to take them home.

Can I still use the birth pool?

This will vary according to your maternity unit.  Some units are still providing the option of using the pool in labour and/or for the birth if women are well and have no symptoms of COVID-19 (asymptomatic) and are able to use the pool.

Some units are not offering this option, so you will need to contact your midwife to ask if this is available.

Where COVID-19 infection is suspected or confirmed, the use of birthing pools in hospital should be avoided given the inability for healthcare staff to use adequate waterproof Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the risk of infection via faeces.

If you are well but have been self-isolating for 14 days due to a member of the household having symptoms, you will need to be treated as a suspected COVID-19 patient and advised to labour and birth on the obstetric-led unit.

Can I still use gas and air?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advise that there is no evidence that the use of gas and air (Entonox) causes an increased risk of spreading the virus and it can therefore be used. When Entonox is used for pain relief, it comes with a single-use mouthpiece with a filter that is standard issue in all maternity units.

Can I still have an epidural?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists advise that there is no evidence that epidural or spinal analgesia is not to be used (contraindicated) in the presence of coronavirus and can therefore be used as a method of pain relief.

Epidural analgesia (pain relief) is recommended to women with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in labour, to minimise the need for general anaesthesia if urgent delivery is needed.

Can I have a homebirth?

If you have chosen to give birth at home it is worth noting that this service relies on the availability of ambulance services to allow for rapid transfer to hospital, and the right number of staff to keep you safe. If these are not in place, it is possible that your chosen maternity unit may not be able to provide these services.

Midwives and maternity services in Greater Manchester and Eastern Cheshire are working around the clock to ensure you continue to get the care and support you and your baby need. In the current situation, some services are still able to maintain some level of homebirth provision at this time, while others have had to make the difficult decision to suspend homebirth services temporarily.  Please contact your midwife to confirm if the homebirth service is still available to you.

Can I use the birth centre?

If you have symptoms or are infected with COVID-19, you will be advised to labour and birth on the obstetric unit and have continuous electronic monitoring of your baby’s heart pattern.

If you are well but have been self-isolating for 14 days due to a member of the household having symptoms, you will need to be treated as a suspected COVID-19 patient and advised to labour and birth on the obstetric-led unit.

If you are well, with no member of the household with symptoms (symptomatic) of COVID-19 and have planned to give birth in a birth centre, as long as your pregnancy remains straightforward, you can birth as planned in the birth centre.  If you wish to change your current plan to birth in a birth centre, please discuss this with your maternity team.

As with home births, free-standing birth centres that are situated away from an obstetric unit rely on the availability of ambulance services to allow for rapid transfer to hospital, and the right number of staff to keep you safe. Unfortunately, we have had to take the decision to temporarily suspend births at our stand-alone birth center at Ingleside.

Most maternity units have a co-located birth centre close to the Obstetric-led unit, which may be an option for you to use.

Please contact your maternity team to confirm if this option is available.

Will my planned caesarean still go ahead? With and without COVID-19 symptoms

Your planned caesarean will go ahead.  Occasionally things might change, if for example, you become ill, or your individual circumstances/clinical condition change. In certain circumstances, the date or scheduling of your caesarean may be deferred if it is safe to do so, in order to minimise the risk to you, your baby and others. Your maternity team will discuss this with you.

How will my care after a caesarean change? Should I go home more quickly?

Your discharge will always depend on how you are (your clinical condition) and that of your baby.  If it is safe for both of you, it will be preferable for you to return home as soon as possible.

Will my planned induction still go ahead? With and without COVID-19 symptoms

Your induction will go ahead as planned. In certain circumstances, for example if you are ill, the date of your induction may be deferred or rescheduled if it is safe to do so, in order to minimise risk to you, the baby and others. Your maternity team will discuss this with you.  Please be aware that there might also be delays in your induction process due to the current situation, but your maternity team will discuss this with you at the time.

In most maternity units one birth partner without symptoms is be able to attend for parts of your induction of labour.  Ideally this will be in a single room on the ward or on the Labour Ward. If the induction has to take place in a bay on a main ward, it might not be possible to achieve the necessary social distancing measures. The staff can advise you at the time of your induction what arrangements are in place.

This guidance is in place to protect other pregnant women and babies, and birth partners themselves. Please be assured that if your partner is unable to be with you on a ward during your induction, this will not impact on your birth partner’s presence during labour and the birth, unless they are unwell. At the point you go into active labour, you will be moved to your own room and your birth partner will be able to join you.

How many birth partners can I have?

Most maternity services have had to make the decision to restrict the number of birth partners to one, in order to keep you, your family and the maternity staff as safe as possible.

Birth partners who have or are suspected of having COVID-19 are not able to be with you when you are in labour.  You might want to think of an alternative person who can accompany you for the labour, birth and immediate period after the birth on the labour ward. We will try very hard to get you and your baby back home to the rest of your family as soon as we can.

Are there time restrictions on my birth partner being there?

Local restrictions on visiting might mean that only one partner/person is able to be present during labour, birth and the immediate period after birth when you are on the labour ward.

In some maternity units, partners may be able to stay on the antenatal ward during the induction process and for a limited amount of time on the postnatal ward, dependent on the environment and infection control measures. Please check with your local maternity unit for their arrangements.

Where local restrictions exist, the decisions to employ them are not taken lightly, and we hope that you understand they are designed to keep as many people as safe as possible.

Is the birth partner the only visitor allowed or can someone who wasn’t my birth partner visit?

Only your planned birth partner – as long as they remain symptom free of COVID-19 – can attend during the labour and for limited periods on the wards in certain maternity units. Please check with your maternity team for local arrangements.

If my birth partner has COVID-19 symptoms what should we do?

There is no access for birth partners who have or are suspected of having COVID-19. This is unfortunate but something that we have to do to keep as many people as safe as possible. You might want to think of an alternative person who can accompany you for the labour, birth and immediate period after the birth on the labour ward. We will try very hard to get you and your baby back home to your family as soon as we can.

If I have COVID-19 symptoms what will be different about the care I receive?

Your maternity team will continue to care for you as planned during labour and the birth.

Due to the COVID-19 virus, and depending on what procedures are being undertaken, the staff will be wearing enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of infection.  This can make it more difficult for them to communicate.

Staff wearing PPE will introduce themselves to you and you will know what their role is. Everyone will be doing their best to provide the highest level of care as we always do.

By working together with you and your partner we hope to achieve a safe and happy experience for you and your family.

In the unlikely event I need a general anaesthetic what will happen?

Occasionally, a general anaesthetic (where you’re put to sleep during the operation) might be used, particularly if your baby needs to be born urgently. During this type of caesarean birth, even under more routine circumstances, it is not recommended for the birth partner to be present for safety reasons.

While the maternity team will do all they can to ensure that your partner is present for the birth, there will be some occasions when there is a need for an urgent emergency procedure and it may not be possible for your partner to be present. This is because during an emergency, operating theatres are more high-risk environments in terms of potential spread of COVID-19 to everyone who is present.

If it is the case that your partner will not be able to be present during the birth, your maternity team will explain this to you and will do everything they can to ensure that your partner can see you and your baby as soon as possible after the birth.

I was due to have an elective section at Macclesfield next week. How can I get a date for my surgery from my new hospital and who do I contact if an emergency e.g. Reduced Fetal Movement (RFM) - Macclesfield or my new hospital?

You should have been contacted by a midwife from either Macclesfield or the unit where your care in labour will take place. Your elective caesarean section will still go ahead, but there might be some changes to the scheduling. Each of the maternity units receiving women who have booked at Macclesfield have made arrangements to care for you and you will have been given contact numbers for those units.  Your antenatal and postnatal care will continue to be given by the maternity team at Macclesfield and you can contact them with the numbers given to you at booking.

Can my birth partner stay with me on the postnatal ward? If so, can they go out for food?

Local restrictions on visiting might mean that partners are not able to stay as they would normally do on the postnatal ward. In some maternity units and depending on the environment in terms of infection control measures and social distancing, partners will not be able to stay at all on the postnatal ward; in others they might be able to stay for a limited period if they are symptom-free. Please ask your local unit for their arrangements so that you are prepared.

Remember to bring your phone/tablet charger to hospital with you so you can use this to keep in contact with your family.

Does my partner have to leave straight after the birth? Can they come back and visit?

Local restrictions on visiting might mean that partners cannot accompany you to the postnatal ward as they would normally.

Dependent on infection control measures and social distancing within the post-natal ward environment, some partners will not be able to stay at all on the postnatal ward; in other units partners might be able to stay for a limited period. Please ask your local unit for their arrangements so that you are prepared.  We will make every effort to discharge you and baby and get home as soon as possible to your family.

What are visiting restrictions on the postnatal ward?

Some maternity units are enabling partners to be present for a limited amount of time on postnatal wards; others are unable to permit partners to be present if not able to observe social distancing and other infection control measures. Please check with your maternity team for local arrangements.

Will I be discharged from hospital quicker than normal?

You and your baby will be best off at home and we will do our best to discharge you both as soon as possible, based on your clinical condition.

Should postnatal women take the same precautions with social isolation as pregnant women?

There is no evidence that women who have recently had a baby and are otherwise well are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 or of becoming seriously unwell. Children, including newborns, do not appear to be at high risk of becoming seriously unwell with the virus.

You should continue to follow government advice about social distancing; stay away from public places and avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. If a member of your household has symptoms, they should try to remain isolated from you and your baby according to national guidance.  Only leave the house for food and health reasons and do not meet others including family and friends which is understandably disappointing at this special time. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media. It will help to eat a healthy, balanced diet, do some mild exercise and follow the current government guidelines.

Remember that hygiene is, as always, important for anyone who lives in your home. Remember to wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds minimum with hot water and soap as recommended.

Are premature babies in the high-risk category?

Evidence is limited, however we know premature babies are more susceptible to infections and therefore strict precautions will be in place on the neonatal unit to reduce the possibility of contracting COVID-19.

Do not put off seeking medical advice if you have concerns about your baby’s health during the pandemic.

Seek medical advice if your baby has any symptoms you may have concerns about. The Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health (RCPCH)  and Healthier Together have produced a guide with advice for parents during coronavirus, which shows symptoms to look out for and who to contact.

Where can I get infant feeding support?

There is currently no evidence that the virus can be carried in breast milk. The current advice is that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh potential risks of transmitting the virus. However, there is concern about the close contact between you and your baby, as you may share airborne droplets infected with the virus.

Many support groups have moved online in accordance with the new Government restrictions on movement but continue to support with telephone advice and online group meetings. All maternity units will have a breast feeding support team and they will have made arrangements to offer both virtual and telephone support.  When you or anyone else feeds your baby, the following precautions are recommended:

  • Wash your hands before touching your baby, breast pump or bottles
  • Try to avoid coughing or sneezing on your baby while feeding at the breast
  • Consider wearing a face mask while breastfeeding, if available
  • Follow recommendations for pump cleaning after each use
  • If unwell, it may be easier to continue to breastfeed than to express. Alternatively consider asking someone who is well to feed expressed breastmilk to your baby.

If you choose to feed your baby with expressed milk or formula, it is recommended that you follow strict adherence to sterilisation guidelines. Please click on this link for further advice. If you are expressing breast milk in hospital, a dedicated breast pump should be used.

There are further links for information at the end of the page.

How can I meet other mums in my areas?

It is reassuring to speak to other parents in your position and there are several online resources that you might want to use, such as  www.netmums.com ;

National Childbirth Trust ; www.nctpregnancyandbabycare.com  (Helpline: 0300 330 0772) and https://dadmatters.org.uk

In addition, some maternity services have established social media groups for women receiving care from their unit and you can ask your midwife if such as service if available in your area.  You must, however, continue to follow government advice about social distancing; stay away from public places and avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. Only leave the house for food and health reasons and do not meet others including family and friends which is understandably disappointing at this special time. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media.

Our Maternity Voice Partnership (MVP) Network have a Postnatal support group:

How do I get mental health support?

Advice and information on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is available https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-guidance-for-the-public-on-mental-health-and-wellbeing and there are several other links that you can use (See links at the end of this page).

Additionally, your midwife will be able to sign post you to local mental health support services that are available.

Speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you are feeling worried/anxious/concerned about your mental wellbeing.

During pregnancy and after your baby is born, your midwife or health visitor should also ask if you have ever had problems with your mental health in the past, and whether you have been bothered by feeling down, hopeless or unable to enjoy things lately. Don’t be afraid to tell your midwife, health visitor or GP how you’re feeling. They can help you to consider what support you may need with your emotional and mental health.

There are further links at the end of this page that you might find useful.

Will the midwife/Health Visitor still visit me? Can I have a virtual appointment via phone/video call?

You will be informed by your midwife/Health Visitor of the local arrangements in place and face to face visits will be limited to protect you and your family from the spread of COVID-19. However you will continue to receive support and advice from both your midwife and Health Visitor via telephone/video calls.

If the midwife isn’t visiting me at home to check on us how will I know if my baby/I am ok?

It is important that you continue to recover from the birth and that you and your baby are well.  Even though the midwife might not be visiting as often as usual, you can still speak to a midwife using the numbers given to you.  Your Health Visitor will also provide contact numbers so that you can speak to her. We want to make sure that the baby is feeding well and gaining weight too, so if you have any concerns please contact your midwife and there is further advice on the link below.

Do not put off seeking medical advice if you have concerns about your baby’s health during the pandemic. Seek medical advice if your baby has any symptoms you may have concerns about. The Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health (RCPCH)  and Healthier Together have produced a guide with advice for parents during coronavirus, which shows symptoms to look out for and who to contact.

The NHS have produced post-natal leaflets on this subject:

  1. Illness in new-born babies
  2. Coronavirus – Parent information for new-born babies

If my baby needs neonatal care will we be able to stay with them? What if either of us have COVID-19 symptoms?

At the moment most units are enabling one parent at a time to be with their baby on the unit as long as they do not have, or are not suspected to have, COVID-19. Parents who have had a positive test for COVID-19 will not be able to be with their baby on the neonatal unit. Parents who are self-isolating, because a family member has symptoms will need to stay at home until a negative test has been confirmed.

Neonatal units are working to develop ways of communicating with those parents who are unable to be with their baby – for instance, baby diaries, journals or video messaging. Your neonatal unit may be able to arrange video contact for you. They will be able to give you updates on how your baby is and involve you in decisions. Talk to your neonatal unit about how they can support you if you are not able to be with your baby on the unit.

Policies for allowing parents onto neonatal units may vary between different units, and units might change their policies at short notice as the situation develops. Check with your neonatal unit for the most up to date information.

What if I am unwell and need an extended stay in hospital or need readmitting? Can my baby stay with me?

A discussion about the risks and benefits should take place between you, your family and the doctors caring for you (obstetricians) and your baby (neonatologists) to individualise care for your baby.

Do I still need a glucose tolerance test? Has care changed for people with gestational diabetes?

Yes, you still need to attend for your glucose tolerance test.  It is very important that you do so.  All necessary precautions (such as caring for you in a place away from COVID-19 patients, offering swabbing to women on admission to see if they are positive, wearing masks gloves and gowns depending on what we are doing), will be taken by the staff whilst you are having the test.

I would like to see what the maternity unit looks like and where I need to go when I give birth. Is a virtual tour available?

Yes, there is a virtual tour of most of the units in the Maternity Units section.

I've had a previous loss/problem with my baby so was expecting more scans and appointments this pregnancy which have now been cut back. This is making me anxious as I don’t have regular reassurance my baby is ok. What can I do?

In Greater Manchester there were very few changes to antenatal appointments and those that were changed tended to be the appointments that could use technology such as virtual or telephone appointments.  Some appointments were taken out of the routine schedule for a very short time but the maternity units are now in the process of reinstating the appointments so please speak to your midwife if you do not feel you have had a visit or need details of the appointment

If you are worried or anxious about the care you are receiving or just want to speak to someone just for a little reassurance, please phone your midwife on the numbers given to you at booking, they will be happy to speak to you and help you to feel better.

Will I be tested for COVID-19 if I need to attend hospital for any reason?

We are currently offering testing for COVID-19 when women are admitted to hospital for an overnight stay, whether that is an emergency admission or a planned admission. We are not testing partners at this moment in time.

I’m worried about catching COVID-19 if I leave my house, but the midwife has told me to come to hospital for a check. What should I do and how can I stay safe?

You should stay alert when you leave home: washing your hands regularly, maintaining social distancing, and ensuring you do not gather in groups of more than two, except with members of your household or for other specific exceptions set out by the government. For information about face masks, please see the response below.

Should I wear a face mask and gloves to appointments?

Current government advice is encouraging the use of face coverings such as non-surgical masks in enclosed public spaces such as shops, trains and buses to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, and when visiting the hospital for an appointment.   Please consider making your own face covering at home rather than buying a medical grade mask as these are needed in hospitals. If you attend hospital without a mask, you might be offered one and asked to wear it. You do not need to wear the mask during your labour or caesarean, but your partner will.  If there are concerns around your partner wearing the mask, the midwife will use her judgement at the time and discuss this with you both.  The midwife will be wearing a mask and other protective equipment to protect you and her.

In a homebirth situation, a mask is not required for you and your partner as it is not a clinical setting. However the midwife will be wearing a mask to protect you and your family.

I’m worried about handing my maternity notes over to someone else in case they transmit COVID-19 to me via my notes. What precautions are you taking to make sure you don’t pass the virus onto me at appointments?

Protective equipment and infection control measures will be in place as advised by Public Health England. The health practitioner will introduce themselves to you so you will know their name and what they are going to do.  The staff will be washing their hands and applying a new set of gloves with each woman that they see.  When the appointment is completed and you are handed your notes back, the midwife will remove her gloves and wash her hands.  You can place your notes into a bag and once home it is advisable to wipe down any documents or covering and leave them to one side for 2-3 days to reduce the risk of fomites; that is, virus that can live on certain surfaces and risk transmission of the infection.

Now lockdown rules are changing, can my partner attend scans again?

Partners are not currently able to accompany you to the scan.  Government arrangements for social distancing remain in place and this is the reason that we have had to restrict partners attending the appointment.  Please speak to your midwife or sonographer about local arrangements.  Where possible, the scan departments should take into consideration individual needs and circumstances and adapt where possible to support you.  You might want your partner to be in close communication with you via phone in case you need to speak to them.

Have the healthcare professionals I will see at my appointment been tested for COVID-19?

If a member of staff is symptomatic, they are being tested for COVID-19 and they are self-isolating for 7 days or until their test result is returned as negative. We are not testing all staff if not symptomatic. The NHS has also started to introduce testing for antibodies and most staff will be tested in the coming weeks.

Should I still be staying home and self-isolating if I’m pregnant? Can I go out for exercise or to meet anyone?

Some people, including those aged 70 and over, those with specific chronic pre-existing conditions and pregnant women, are clinically vulnerable, meaning they are at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. As we begin to ease restrictions, this group who are clinically vulnerable should continue to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside their household and observe strict distancing measures when going out of the home.

In addition, women from Black, African and other minority ethnic groups may be at higher risk of complications of COVID-19 and are advised to seek help early if they are concerned about their health. Healthcare professionals should be aware of this increased risk, and might more readily review, admit and treat women in these ethnic groups.

Based on what we know about the virus so far, women who are pregnant with serious heart disease, whether that is a condition they were born with or as a result of illness (check with your GP practice if you are not sure if this applies to you), are at greatest risk of severe illness from COVID-19. You are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact if you’re clinically extremely vulnerable to protect yourself.  This is called ‘shielding’.  Please see government advice on shielding for details. If you are shielding, your maternity team will have been in touch with you to discuss how they will provide care to you during this time.

As restrictions on shielded people relax, you will still need to be very careful if going out, wearing a mask, not mixing closely with others, maintaining social distancing etc.  If you have not heard from your maternity team, please contact them using the numbers you were given at booking.

I’m considering freebirth or unassisted birth as my maternity unit’s homebirth service is suspended. How can you support me?

As a result of service pressures in maternity and related services including the ambulance service during the COVID-19 pandemic, some maternity services made the difficult decision to suspend the availability of home birth and/or midwife-led birth in some areas. However, most of them are now starting the service up again, so please check to see if this is the case in your local area.

If the service continues to be suspended, women will be supported to adapt their birth plan to birth in the hospital maternity unit or alongside midwife led unit. If you are COVID-19 positive or have had the virus, we are advising that you give birth in the obstetric consultant delivery unit so that your baby can be monitored during labour.

You might find the alternative options on offer unacceptable or feel that they do not meet your needs and you may still choose to have an unassisted birth. The concern from the maternity services is that birthing without midwifery assistance brings with it the potential for increased risks to both you and your baby.

It is very important that you contact your midwife or maternity team to discuss this further.  They will listen to your concerns in order to understand your reasons for choosing unassisted birth, to discuss the individual risks for you and your baby so that your decision making is fully informed and to assist you in considering different options.

If you go into labour at home, it is advised that you contact your local maternity service and inform them.  They will advise you as to what options for care are available at that time.

Who should look after my other children while I am giving birth? Do they need to self-isolate beforehand? If my other children go to another household to be looked after, do they need to self-isolate for 14 days before they can come home?

This is a difficult and complex area to advise on. The priority is that your children are safe and cared for when you are in labour.  Recent government advice states that you can form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household if you live alone or are a single parent with dependent children – in other words, you are in a household where there is only one adult. All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household – meaning they can spend time together inside each other’s homes and do not need to stay 2 metres apart.

Currently, for other people (who do not fall into the support bubble category) the government advises that other people should not visit your home, but someone caring for your children when you are in labour should be allowed under the ‘limited exceptions’ or special circumstances the government has agreed fall outside of the normal rules.

Whoever you have planned to look after your children, it is advisable that they self-isolate for 2 weeks prior to your admission wherever possible, to minimise the risks of passing on the virus, although we understand that might be difficult as birth can be unpredictable.  Wherever possible, it might be better for the children to remain at home and it is extremely important that good hygiene is maintained.

Will I be tested for COVID-19 when I go to the hospital for induction/birth/caesarean? Will my birth partner be tested for COVID-19?

National guidance from NHS England has requested that swabs be taken from all patients requiring an overnight stay. This includes everyone staying overnight in all hospital settings.

Maternity and gynaecology overnight stay patients will be swabbed as soon as possible once an overnight stay is anticipated.

Birth partners/carers (unless the carer is a healthcare professional in which case this is not required) attending with you will also be tested if overnight stay is likely, for instance, if your partner is admitted in labour or staying due to extenuating circumstances such as bereavement. If an asymptomatic birth partner or carer is present overnight, a swab should also be taken from the birth partner or carer.

If my intended birth partner does not live in my household, do they need to self-isolate before my due date so they can be with me for the birth?

Recent government advice states that you can form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household if you live alone or are a single parent with dependent children – in other words, you are in a household where there is only one adult. All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household – meaning they can spend time together inside each other’s homes and do not need to stay 2 metres apart. If not in a support bubble, your partner would still able to attend the birth.  It would be advisable for them to self-isolate prior to the birth if possible, to minimise the risk of passing on the virus, because if they show signs of being ill or have tested positive test for the virus, they will not be able to accompany you.

Do I need to self-isolate at home for 14 days with my baby after I leave the hospital?

The more people you have interactions with, the more chance the virus has to spread. Therefore, try to limit the number of people you see – especially over short periods of time.  When you go home, you can form a ‘support bubble’ with one other household if you live alone or are a single parent with dependent children – in other words, you are in a household where there is only one adult. All those in a support bubble will be able to act as if they live in the same household – meaning they can spend time together inside each other’s homes and do not need to stay 2 metres apart. Support bubbles should be exclusive – meaning you should not switch the household you are in a bubble with or connect with multiple households.

Other than that, you should continue to follow government advice about staying at home where possible, social distancing; stay away from public places as much as you can and avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of COVID-19. If a member of your household has symptoms, they should try to remain isolated from you and your baby according to national guidance.

Up to 6 people can meet outdoors but maintain a distance.  Do not meet others including extended family and friends (other than in a support bubble), which is understandably disappointing at this special time. Keep in touch using remote technology such as phone, internet, and social media. It will help to eat a healthy, balanced diet, do some mild exercise (such as a short walk) and follow the current government guidelines.

Remember that hygiene is, as always, important for anyone who lives in your home. Remember to wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds minimum with hot water and soap as recommended. Need to check most recent guidance re self-isolation and baby

How many different people will perform checks on my newborn and what will be done to reduce our chances of my baby catching coronavirus?

Your newborn baby will have a check performed immediately after the birth by the midwife assisting you with the birth. A second, more detailed examination will take place between 6-72 hours of birth, usually by another midwife or doctor, but it could also be by the same midwife with you at the birth, particularly if you are receiving continuity of carer.

What is the guidance on visitors as lockdown is starting to ease? If say, in a month's time, family are allowed to visit, has anything been issued to help new parents negotiate their way around people wanting to touch and hold your newborn baby?

We advise that people outside of your immediate family do not handle or touch baby where possible, particularly in the current pandemic. Newborn babies can be susceptible to the virus, as well as other infections, so it is important that you continue to stay at home as much as possible, observe government guidelines and maintain high standards of hygiene including regular hand washing.

The current rules for meeting with grandparents have been relaxed and if two households are in the same ‘bubble’ then it is safe to mix.  If not, you still need to observe the distancing rules.  Virtual contact, although not the same, is good for the majority of your friends and family to see you and baby for now.

If I tested positive for COVID-19 and my baby needs neonatal care, can I still be with my baby?

At the moment most units are enabling one parent at a time to be with their baby on the unit as long as they do not have, or are not suspected to have, COVID-19. Parents who have had a positive test for COVID-19 will not be able to be with their baby on the neonatal unit. Parents who are self-isolating, because a family member has symptoms will need to stay at home until a negative test has been confirmed.

Neonatal units are working to develop ways of communicating with those parents who are unable to be with their baby – for instance, baby diaries, journals or video messaging. Your neonatal unit may be able to arrange video contact for you. They will be able to give you updates on how your baby is and involve you in decisions. Talk to your neonatal unit about how they can support you if you are not able to be with your baby on the unit. Policies for allowing parents onto neonatal units may vary between different units, and units might change their policies at short notice as the situation develops. Check with your neonatal unit for the most up to date information.

If my partner tested negative for COVID-19, can they now stay with me on the postnatal ward?

There is no access for birth partners who have or are suspected of having COVID-19. This is unfortunate but something that we have to do to keep as many people as safe as possible. You might want to think of an alternative person who can accompany you for the labour, birth and immediate period after the birth on the labour ward. We will try very hard to get you and your baby back home to your family as soon as we can.

Now lockdown rules are loosening, can my partner stay with me on the postnatal ward?

Local arrangements might mean that partners can accompany you to the postnatal ward as they would normally, but they might not be able to stay for very long.  Dependent on infection control measures and social distancing within the post-natal ward environment, some partners will not be able to stay at all on the postnatal ward once you are settled in; Please ask your local unit for their arrangements so that you are prepared.  We will make every effort to discharge you and baby and get home as soon as possible to your family.

Now lockdown rules are loosening, can I have visitors on the postnatal ward?

Some maternity units are able to welcome partners to be present for a limited amount of time on postnatal wards; others are unable to permit partners to be present if the space means they are unable to observe social distancing and other infection control measures. Visitors are not permitted on the wards at the present. Please check with your maternity team for local arrangements regarding your partner.

How do I register the birth of my baby?

You may not currently be able to register a birth, marriage or civil partnership because of coronavirus (COVID-19). However most registry offices are now planning to either offer registration via Zoom or are putting measures in place such as screens in the offices so that registration can take place there although it is likely to take longer due to the social distancing measures that will need to be in place and the limit on the number of staff able to return to the work environment. Because of the restrictions the 6-week limit on registering the birth does not apply. Further guidance is expected but, in the meantime, you can find a register office and get some further details regarding birth registration.

How do I claim child benefit?

You get Child Benefit if you’re responsible for bringing up a child who is under 16, or under 20 if they stay in approved education or training.  Only one person can get Child Benefit for a child.  It’s paid every 4 weeks and there’s no limit to how many children you can claim for. You would normally need the birth certificate to apply for child benefit, but in light of the changes and delays in birth registration, this requirement has been temporarily waived.  You can find more information on the government’s website.

Maternity Units - Contact Information

Bolton NHS Foundation Trust

Maternity Triage: (01204) 390 612

COVID-19 Helpline (Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm): Tel (01204) 487 497

Tameside and Glossop Integrated Care

Maternity Triage: 0161 922 6175

COVID Helpline: 07585 124 955

St Mary’s at Wythenshawe/ St Mary’s at Oxford Road

COVID-19 & pregnancy helpline (Monday to Friday 8am-9pm): 0161 701 5572

St Mary’s at Oxford Road Maternity Triage: (0161) 276 6567

St Mary’s at Wythenshawe Maternity Triage: 0161 291 2724

East Cheshire (Macclesfield District General)

Midwives are contacting women under their care. You can still speak to a midwife at Macclesfield antenatal clinic or day unit.  Call 01625 661140.

You will be given details of the hospital where you will give birth to your baby and you will contact them if you think that you might be in labour.

For Stepping Hill Hospital Labour Ward: 0161 419 5551

For Royal Stoke Hospital Labour Ward: 01782 672333

For Leighton Hospital Labour Ward: 01270 612144

For Wythenshawe Hospital Labour Ward: 0161 291 2762

Oldham, Rochdale, North Manchester

Contact numbers list:

https://www.pat.nhs.uk/patients-and-visitors/ward-contact-numbers.htm

Oldham Maternity Assessment Unit: 0161 627 8855

North Manchester Maternity Triage: 0161 922 3167

Stockport – Stepping Hill Hospital

Maternity Triage: 0161 419 5551

COVID-19 advice line (Mon-Fri, 8:30-4:30pm): 0161 419 5514

Wigan, Wrightington & Leigh

Maternity Triage: 01942 7878628

Links and further information

Mental Health & Wellbeing support

Mental Health and Wellbeing support apps:

  • Calmharm app free to download full of ideas of how to ride the wave of distress safely.
  • Cove app free to download , this app enables you to create and use music to express how you are feeling
  • Thrive app free to download, this app uses games to help you learn how to better manage your emotions.

Infant feeding support information:

Infant Feeding support contact numbers:

Bolton

Infant Feeding Service Telephone number: 01204 390423

Bury

Infant feeding support can be accessed by contacting one of 5 Health Visiting teams (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm).

  • Prestwich: 0161 351 2135 (option 1)
  • Whitefield: 0161 351 2135 (option 1)
  • Radcliffe: 0161 724 2086 (option 1)
  • Town Centre: 0161 762 3291 (option 3)
  • Ramsbottom: 01706 282 933

Eastern Cheshire

Infant feeding support is 0300 1234 579 (Mon-Fri, 9-5pm).

Manchester – St. Mary’s

Breastfeeding Helpline Telephone number is 0161 276 8910 (Mon-Fri, 9-5pm).

Manchester Community areas

Telephone support via 0161 720 5982 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm).

Manchester – Wythenshawe

Infant Feeding Support Telephone 0161 291 5461

Pennine – North Manchester

Telephone 0161 720 5982 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm).

Pennine Oldham and  Bridgewater Community Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Home Start (cover Oldham and Tameside) Tel: 07802 883947

Breast feeding Network Tel: 0300 100 0212

Heywood, Rochdale, Middleton

Lactation Consultant telephone support: 0161 716 2835

Salford

Support available via Health Visiting teams. Contact numbers for each area of Salford are:

  • South Tel: 0161 206 3819
  • West Tel: 0161 206 2085
  • East Central Tel: 0161 206 1764
  • Central Tel: 0161 206 6081
  • North Tel: 0161 793 3875

Stockport

Contact numbers for telephone helpline: 0161 419 4430 or 07767 870 506.

Tameside

Home Start Infant Feeding Support duty number is 07802 883 947 (7 days a week)

Breast feeding Network: 0300 100 0212

Trafford

Infant feeding support contact number: 07894 489 937

Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh

Infant feeding support contact number in hospital 07384 459 308/07917 580 276

Infant feeding support contact number in community 07795 017 630

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This information has been created in collaboration with Maternity Voices Greater Manchester and Eastern Cheshire Network. You may contact them on the details given below.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @MatVoicesGMEC

Facebook: @MatVoicesGMEC

Website: maternityvoicesgmec.org.uk