Giving birth alone in hospital
Read time: 6 minutes
Having a trusted birth partner with you throughout your labour can make a significant difference to your experience of labour and birth1.
Birth partners provide familiarity and support in the unfamiliar surroundings of the hospital, and in the current times, when coronavirus is heightening anxiety, having the support and reassurance of someone you know and trust is more important than ever.
However, rules around social distancing and restrictions on the number of people permitted into hospitals during the ongoing pandemic are affecting standard protocol.
Find out how coronavirus might affect who supports you in hospital, rules for birth partners who have tested positive for Covid-19, and get the latest advice for birth partners during the coronavirus outbreak.
The current guidance from the NHS2, the Royal College of Midwives3 and the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists4 is:
- If your birth partner is not experiencing any symptoms of Coronavirus:
they will be allowed to stay with you during labour and birth.
- In the unlikely event that you need a general anaesthetic:
your birth partner will not be able to accompany you into theatre. This is standard practise regardless of the current coronavirus situation.
- If your birth partner is experiencing coronavirus symptoms, or has tested positive for coronavirus:
they will currently not be allowed to go into hospital with you. This is to safeguard the health of you, your baby, other women and babies on the antenatal ward, and the maternity staff supporting you. You will be allowed to have an alternative birth partner with you, so consider who else might be able to support you.
Read the latest guidance about home birth during the coronavirus pandemic.
Can my doula attend my birth?
Doulas offer practical and emotional support to women in labour. Your hospital will do everything possible to ensure they are with you during labour and birth. Talk to your midwife for the latest guidance on doulas at your hospital.
Will I be able to have my birth partner with me if I am being induced?
If your birth partner is not experiencing symptoms, they should be able to attend your induction of labour if it takes place in a single room, such as on the labour ward.
If your induction takes place in a bay on a main ward, it’s possible your birth partner may not be able to be with you owing to the social distancing measures currently in place. This will not stop your birth partner being with you during labour and birth, unless they are unwell. As soon as you go into active labour, you’ll be moved to your own room and your birth partner will be able to join you.
Will my birth partner be able to stay with me if I need to be transferred to an operating theatre for a caesarean or instrumental birth?
As long as your birth partner is not experiencing any symptoms of coronavirus, your maternity team will do everything they can to ensure your birth partner can stay with you in the operating theatre.
Staff in the operating theatre will be wearing enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) due to the coronavirus pandemic, which will make it more difficult for them to communicate. Because of this, it’s really important that your birth partner listens carefully to any instructions they’re given from the maternity team and follows them quickly.
Very occasionally, a general anaesthetic (where you’re put to sleep) may need to be used, particularly if your baby needs to be born urgently. In this situation, it will not be possible for your birth partner to stay with you for the birth. This is for safety reasons and would be the case with or without the outbreak of coronavirus.
In this situation, your maternity team will do everything they can to ensure that your birth partner can see you and your baby as soon as possible after the birth.
Will I be able to have my birth partner with me on the postnatal ward?
Unfortunately, in order to comply with current social distancing measures you will not be able to have your birth partner with you on the postnatal ward after you have given birth. However, rest assured that the maternity staff will take good care of you and give you the support and reassurance you need until you are discharged from the hospital.
Advice for giving birth alone, without a birth partner
The best advice we can give you is to try and stay as calm and relaxed as possible. Your body will work better if you’re relaxed and oxytocin, the hormone that helps you to cope with labour and help your labour to progress, will be released more easily.
Try getting yourself as comfortable as possible. Find a position that works for you – it could be standing, sitting, squatting, on the bed, off the bed – whatever feels good for you. You could also ask your midwife if they have a birthing ball you could use, or extra pillows to prop yourself up. You can also ask if it’s possible to dim the lights to create a calmer, private atmosphere and help switch off from anything that’s going on around you.
Focusing on your breathing can really help – try keeping it slow and steady. As your labour progresses, try taking a deep breath at the start of each contraction and exhaling slowing until the contraction passes.
While you may find it difficult to relax during contractions, remember that most women experience no pain in between contractions. Try and use this time to refocus on your breathing and relaxing your body and mind.
Advice for birth partners during the coronavirus pandemic
- To help prevent spread of coronavirus, it’s really important that you don’t attend the maternity unit if you have any symptoms of coronavirus or have had any in the previous 7 days.
- Stay in the labour room with the woman you’re supporting. Don’t walk around the labour ward unaccompanied. The maternity team will advise you on what is expected from you.
- Cover your mouth with a tissue if you cough or sneeze, and dispose of it in a bin immediately.
- Remember to wash your hands regularly with soap and water and use hand sanitiser gel where provided in clinical areas.
- If you’re asked to a wear a mask or any personal protective equipment (PPE) during the labour or birth, follow any instructions you’re given carefully.
If you are attending a caesarean birth:
- A staff member will be allocated to support you. You’ll need to follow their instructions carefully and direct any questions to them.
- Don’t move around the operating theatre as you risk obstructing medical staff and contaminating sterile areas.
- Your maternity team will do everything they can to ensure you’re present for the birth. However, in some cases they may ask that you are not present in the operating theatre. Unless it’s an emergency, they’ll discuss this with you beforehand and talk you though their reasons.
- If you are not able to be present at the birth, your maternity team will do everything they can to enable you to see your baby as soon as possible after the birth.
- Bohren MA et al. Continuous support for women during childbirth [Online]. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD003766.pub6/full [Accessed April 2020]
- NHS. Advice for everyone: Coronavirus (COVID-19) [Online]. 2020. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ [Accessed April 2020]
- The Royal College of Midwives. Coronavirus Q&A for pregnant women and their families [Online]. 2020. Available at: https://www.rcm.org.uk/advice-for-pregnant-women/ [Accessed April 2020]
- The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. Coronavirus infection and pregnancy [Online]. 2020. Available at: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/ [Accessed April 2020]
Last reviewed: 27th April 2020
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