According to the World Health Organisation, a safe and positive childbirth experience includes:

  • Being treated with respect and dignity;
  • Having a companion of choice present during delivery;
  • Clear communication by maternity staff;
  • Appropriate pain relief strategies:
  • Mobility in labour where possible, and birth position of choice.

The maternity team will be there to support you through your birthing experience.

What happens if I go into labour during my self-isolation period?

If you are in self-isolation and think you are in labour, contact your maternity unit for advice. Let them know if you have suspected or confirmed coronavirus. If your symptoms are mild, they will encourage you to stay at home in early labour, which is standard practice.

When you and your maternity team decide you need to attend the maternity unit:

  • You will be advised arrive via private transport where possible
  • Someone will meet you at the entrance to give you a surgical mask, which you need to keep on until you are in a room
  • Coronavirus testing will be arranged for you.

 

Can having coronavirus affect where I give birth?

As a precaution, if a pregnant woman is suspected of having, or has confirmed coronavirus, they are being advised to attend an obstetric unit (hospital) to give birth. This is because your baby can be monitored using electronic fetal monitoring and your oxygen levels can also be monitored.

Home births, or midwife led units, are not currently recommended for women who have coronavirus. It is best to speak to your midwife or maternity team about your birth plan and the pain relief options available.

 

Can having coronavirus affect how I give birth?

There isn’t any evidence at the moment to show that you can’t give birth vaginally or that a caesarean birth is safer if you have suspected or confirmed coronavirus. Your birth plan should still be followed as closely as possible.

However, if your breathing suggests that an urgent delivery is needed, you may be recommended to have a caesarean.

Because the virus can sometimes be found in faeces, it is not recommended for people with suspected coronavirus to have a water birth. It may also be more difficult for healthcare staff to take any necessary protective measures.

There is no evidence that women with suspected or confirmed coronavirus cannot have an epidural or a spinal block. There is no evidence that Entonox is an aerosol-prone procedure, so there is no reason you cannot use this in labour.

Every effort will be made to ensure you will be able to access pain relief during labour. There may however be a great demand on the availability of anaesthetic services as the COVID-19 situation develops. This may affect the availability of remifentanil and epidural services which will be reviewed on a day to day basis.

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, maternity staff will take all appropriate precautions to reduce risks of infection to themselves and others, including hand hygiene, and appropriate use of protective clothing like gloves, gown and medical mask.

 

Home births

We wish to support you to choose the right birth for you. Please speak to your midwife in your trust regarding the availability of home birth services at this time. A reduction in the availability of midwifery staff and access to ambulance services in the case of requiring a transfer into hospital may impact on the provision of a home birth service in some areas.

 

Visiting policy

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government restrictions of movements and to protect patients, their families and all staff, the HSC have temporarily restricted the number of visitors across hospitals.

To read the latest guidance see: COVID-19 regional principles for visiting maternity services in Northern Ireland

Birth partners should not attend if they are feeling unwell, especially if they have a high temperature or a new persistent cough. Children are also not permitted to visit.

All people visiting Health and Social Care Settings and Care Home Settings will be required to wear face coverings for the foreseeable future.

 

COVID-19: Information for parents of newborn babies

Click here for information for parents of newborn babies in maternity units who may be worried about what COVID-19 may mean for their baby. It includes information on how to reduce your baby’s risk and what to do if you’re concerned.