'Traumatic': Maternity Services Are Still Restricted. This Is The Impact.

Pregnant women and new mums are sharing their experiences of Covid-19 restrictions, using the hashtag #ButNotMaternity.

Update: Since this article was published, the NHS has introduced a framework to support hospitals to reintroduce regular maternity services.

You can go to the pub, fly abroad and attend a wedding with 30 people. But maternity services are still heavily restricted under the government’s Covid-19 regulations, meaning pregnant women are attending scans – and, in some cases, giving birth – alone.

HuffPost UK has been reporting on the restrictions to maternity and postnatal services since June. Now, women are sharing their stories online, showing not much has changed in the months since.

BlissBirth, a company providing birth and postnatal doula services, has launched the campaign #ButNotMaternity, highlighting all the things the public can now do under the reduced pandemic restrictions.

The campaign encourages women to share the placards and hashtag, along with their own experience.


The hashtag gained momentum this weekend after Tobi Oredein, the CEO and founder of Black Ballad, shared her story, detailing how her husband didn’t see their baby until she was three days old.

Last month, Oredein wrote about her experience of giving birth during the pandemic as part of Black Ballad’s takeover of HuffPost UK. “I gave birth to my daughter by myself after needing an emergency c-section,” she wrote.

“Of course, doctors were there, but my husband wasn’t allowed by my side and I had never felt more alone or more powerless, in a face mask and looking up a white ceiling with lights so bright they felt like they were piercing my eyeballs.

“Spending nearly 60 hours in labour pushed me not just physically, but mentally in a way I could have never predicted.”

According to guidance published by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Royal College of Midwives (RCM), and Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, visiting on antenatal and postnatal wards is down to “local discretion by Trusts and other NHS bodies”.

The guidelines, updated in August, state that women should be able to have their birthing partner with them during labour, but it isn’t always possible for partners to be present during inductions, caesareans or some emergency situations. In addition, the guidelines confirm that women may still be asked to attend a scan or other antenatal appointment alone.

On Tuesday (September 8), the RCOG and RCM called for the NHS to publish updated guidance on maternity care in the pandemic. RCM CEO Gill Walton said it’s “completely unacceptable that NHS England has been dragging its feet and delaying the publication of this guidance”.

The Colleges say not having guidance that’s transparent and available to all is causing inequity across services, with some fully open and others keeping the same restrictions that were in place during the height of the pandemic.

Since this article was published, the NHS has introduced a framework to support hospitals to reintroduce regular maternity services.

Jose Luis Pelaez Inc via Getty Images

Mums-to-be have previously told HuffPost UK how distressing the restrictions are. One woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said her partner hadn’t been allowed to attend any of her scans, which was particularly difficult because she experienced a missed miscarriage during her last pregnancy, which was only picked up at a routine scan.

“Knowing I had to do the whole appointment process – taxis, waiting surrounded by other pregnant women, the actual scan – without the support of my partner added a lot of anxiety into the lead up to the appointments,” the 37-year-old from London said.

“My partner also felt the same way, mostly helpless as he just had to wait for the information alone at home. And then when the scans went well, there wasn’t the one person I wanted to be there to share the overwhelming joy with.”

An online petition calling for the restrictions to be eased has gained more than 300,000 signatures. Pregnant women and new mums have also been calling for change on Twitter, using the campaign’s hashtag.

When asked whether there are any plans to ease restrictions on maternity services, a spokesperson for the NHS told HuffPost UK: “The safety of our patients and their families is always the absolute priority, which is why guidance on safely attending maternity appointments was developed at the start of the pandemic with the Royal Colleges of Midwives and Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

“Now as we have moved past the initial peak, the NHS is continuing to work with frontline professionals and patient groups to open up services safely, and allow partners to go to antenatal clinics, in addition to being present for labour, which partners have been able to do throughout the pandemic.”