Women are demanding NHS bosses act after harsh coronavirus restrictions leave them facing giving birth alone.
Tobi Oredein joined in the #ButNotMaternity social media campaign. “This needs to be addressed immediately by the government,” she said.
“I gave birth by myself and my husband didn’t see our baby until she was three days old. Giving birth alone was the most traumatic experience of my life. We must do better by those giving birth during this time.”
Under the current rules, women are forced to labour without their birth partner until they are 4 centimetres dilated.
Partners aren’t allowed at any maternity or postnatal appointments. And they’re not allowed to be there to support pregnant women during pre-operative preparation for a caesarean section.
#ButNotMaternity has exploded throughout Twitter, with thousands of new parents sharing their stories and tweeting their support.
CJ Eaton-Rutter said, “My husband wasn’t allowed in with me for days during induction. Our baby had to be resuscitated and my husband wasn’t allowed to see him for days after he was released from intensive care to the postnatal ward. This is just a small bit of what we went through.”
Many are pointing to the hypocrisy of tough restrictions on maternity care, while restrictions are lifted across the retail, leisure and education sectors.
Lizzie Hodgson, who is 32 weeks pregnant, said, “I live with my husband and we sleep in the same bed every night. We live in the same house, we breathe the same air—if I’ve got it [coronavirus], he’s got it and vice versa.”
“For him to then miss out on those really important moments when other people can just go and enjoy a meal out with a group of people that they don’t live with, it feels like it’s not being made a priority when it could’ve been.”
For some, it’s possible to get around the restrictions by paying for private health care.
For instance, as partners aren’t allowed into ultrasound appointments, demand for private scans—typically costing £50-£100 and exempt from NHS guidelines—has gone through the roof.
Libby Boardman, pregnant with her second child, said having to take tests, such as for gestational diabetes, alone without her partner has left her wracked with anxiety.
“You have to sit in a room for two hours and when I had Oscar I almost collapsed having that done,” she said.
“I was so nervous to go to that on my own."
On Tuesday, NHS England published new guidance on how hospitals can “reintroduce” partners into maternity services.
But the government says it’s up to individual hospital trusts to decide their policy on easing Covid-19 restrictions.
And campaigners are saying the guidance doesn’t go far enough.
It advises trusts “tailor your policies to your local situation to be innovative in the way you reintroduced visiting”.
And it recommends a phasedapproach into allowing other adults normal maternity practices. but for many women, this will come far too late.
“It’s awful, we could go shopping together right up until I’m 4cm dilated but Tom couldn’t be in hospital with me,” said Libby.
“It’s a very scary time for a lot of women, thinking that they are going to have to go through part of the process alone.”
The nature of the coronavirus restriction is shaped by a sexist society that declares that childrearing is a woman’s responsibility.
Parents, workers and campaigners should keep the pressure on the government to put the needs of women first and relax the restrictions placed on maternity care.