Women who gave birth during the pandemic found some changes “a blessing in disguise”, said researchers at Trinity College Dublin.
A study, carried out by the School of Nursing and Midwifery at a Dublin maternity hospital, found overall isolation and loneliness were common but some changes were beneficial.
Principal investigator Professor Valerie Smith said: “Women said they needed their partners, but on the other side they spoke about a 'blessing in disguise'. That was about the peace and quiet on wards generally. It reflected not having what they called ‘gangs of visitors’ coming into the wards.”
It is “important and timely” women know their experiences are being recorded, she said, and should impact future decisions.
All of the women, she said, expressed “sadness” and felt sorry for their partners who were excluded.
But, researchers also found: “Visiting restrictions while in the hospital were valued by many women and were described as ‘pleasant’ because they provided women with the time and space to ‘bond’ with their baby, without any distraction or disruption from visitors.”
And one woman noted being on multi-bed wards while breastfeeding was more pleasant without visitors.
“I think if there had been people around, strangers marching in and out of the ward I would have had the curtains pulled all the time,” she said.
The study, part of a series on maternity in the pandemic, also found “experiences of feeling low, anxiety, and not being able to cope with the transition to motherhood”.
Women had concerns about telephone antenatal appointments with GPs.
One said: “And over the phone just doesn’t do it like. You don’t get the same, to look into somebody’s eyes and to trust them and for them to say, you’re okay.”
Specific problems with access to post-natal care were identified. The significant drop in the number of visits public health nurses could make to new mothers.previously reported a
One woman surveyed said: “There had been no public health nurses assigned to my area. Apparently, they had been redeployed because of Covid.”
Others talked about the "daunting" and "frustrating" lack of access to breastfeeding supports.