Covid-19: Pregnant women feared partners would be barred from attending birth

Unexpected benefits included having partners around for longer due to the pandemic, new research finds
Covid-19: Pregnant women feared partners would be barred from attending birth

Partners were never stopped from coming to the birth but there was a lot of rumour. Picture: Pexels

New research shows pregnant women experienced anxiety over unfounded fears their partner would be unable to attend the birth because of Covid-19. 

Some unexpected benefits also emerged, including having their partners around for longer than usual following the birth due to lockdown.

Dr Niamh Keating, academic clinical fellow at University College Dublin's Perinatal Research Centre and the National Maternity Hospital (NMH), Dublin, led a team of five researchers which carried out in-depth interviews with 14 women at different stages of pregnancy during the pandemic, including some who had given birth.

Preliminary findings from the study were presented at an online seminar, with a full research paper to be published next year.

Dr Keating said: "We wanted to look at women's lived experience and giving birth in the time of covid."

Interviews started in April, at the height of the first lockdown, and the majority of the women involved were attending the NMH on Holles St.

One theme to emerge was the unfounded fear that their partner would not be able to attend the birth, although public health restrictions did mean partners were unable to attend appointments.

"[The partners] were never stopped from coming to the birth but there was a lot of rumour and they [the women] were quite fearful they might have to deliver on their own," Dr Keating said.

"Women perceived it as a threat and it caused a lot of anxiety."

Dr Keating said the women interviewed understood the rationale for the restrictions and that it was to keep them safe, "but they did find it hard".

Another theme to emerge was that the interviewees often took to very high-level medical journals to try and study the emerging virus, going beyond simply getting updates from normal healthcare providers. 

Social media was also used, although many of the interviewees said they knew they had to be careful with what they read.

While one interviewee expressed the view that the pandemic made it seem like the risk of a home birth was less than spending time in hospital, most women felt the opposite, even while experiencing reduced or spread-out clinical visits and, in the view of some, a lack of face-to-face reassurance.

The restrictions on partners visiting post-natal wards was also mentioned, with hospitals attempting to facilitate women getting home earlier, if possible.

Dr Keating said one interesting aspect of the research was the perceived benefits of lockdown during pregnancy, where some women said they found it easier to work from home and so it was easier to manage pregnancy symptoms, in addition to not having to commute to work. 

Post-delivery, some interviewees said it was beneficial to have their partners at home for longer than would normally be the case.

One woman said while lockdown presented a groundhog day scenario, having a new baby meant there was a positive daily focus.

The research team is also carrying out a 'Becoming dad' survey on the experiences of fathers during the pandemic and anyone interested in becoming involved can access information here

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