Maternity services experienced a major decline in ’emergency pregnancy appointments’ amid pandemic

90% of maternity services have had a decline in attended appointments due to the pandemic.

Laura Townsend
2 October 2020
Pregnant woman inside

Women also missed appointments due to increased anxiety.

A recent report, from The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, found that 90% of maternity services have had a decline in attended appointments due to the pandemic.

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The report found that women refrained from attending appointments due to the anxiety of going into a hospital and not being clear if the appointments were essential.

A majority of expectant mothers also claimed their birthing choices had been altered in some way due to restrictions.

Professor Asma Khalil, consultant obstetrician at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who is the report’s lead author, said: “We don’t yet know what the full impact of these emergency service modifications has been on women and their families but this data will be invaluable in understanding the potential indirect effects of Covid-19 on pregnancy outcomes, over and above any direct impact from the virus itself, including potential delays in accessing care because of concerns of transmission.”

Prioritising enabling birth partners to attend labour.

Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, said: “Maternity services are ‘front door’, essential services. Inpatient maternity services provide care that is largely unscheduled or urgent, with workloads difficult to anticipate in advance. Maternity staff cannot be replaced by other staff groups due to their specialist skillset and protecting this workforce is, therefore, crucial to ensure that maternity care can be sustained.

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“We are acutely aware how difficult restrictions on birth partners attending maternity services have been for women and families throughout the pandemic.

“With increasing prevalence of the virus in many areas and a growing number of local lockdowns and restrictions, services are likely to reluctantly need to maintain some of these restrictions for some time to come. However, we know that all services are prioritising enabling birth partners to attend labour and birth and as many key appointments, including scans, as possible.”

A 75% increase in advise calls.

Wendy Powell, founder the global antenatal and postpartum support programme MUTU System, claims that within the first week of lockdown PANDAS (Pre- and Post-Natal Depression Advice and Support) saw a 75% increase in calls to their helpline.

Wendy Powell said: “Pregnant women are losing their ability to feel in control of their childbirth, which is not only a basic right but also an extremely anxiety provoking situation which can have detrimental consequences for the health of unborn babies and the mothers themselves.

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“We simply cannot allow women to miss out on antenatal and postpartum appointments without support and must find an alternative solution to simply reducing the capacity to hold these sessions.

Essentially, the one thing we cannot allow to happen at any cost is a breakdown in communication between patients and hospitals, because this could lead to more and more women suffering the anxiety of the unknown in silence. Staying away from support can never be the answer for women.”

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