New mums may be forced to undergo more stages of their pregnancies alone as hospitals scale back visiting rights in the wake of the worsening Covid crisis.
Several hospitals have changed the rules on whether partners can visit maternity wards in recent days because of the surge in infections.
University College London Hospitals Trust is one of those who has had to ‘urgently’ review its policies on visiting new mums in order to keep patients and staff safe.
The trust announced on Friday that, effective immediately, all visiting has been suspended to the postnatal and antenatal care wards, meaning no one can visit once the baby has been born.
One ‘support partner’ will still be allowed to accompany pregnant women to midwife appointments, scans and the labour itself, the trust said.
A statement posted on the organisation’s website said the restrictions would be reviewed regularly and will be changed once ‘infection rates in London are at a safer level.’
Similarly the East Suffolk and North Essex Trust – which runs hospitals in Colchester and Ipswich – has suspended antenatal and postnatal ward visiting, apart from in exceptional circumstances.
Only the person who is pregnant can attend maternity triage and antenatal appointments. Women will be able to have one birthing partner accompany them during labour and one adult from the same household can also attend 12 and 20 week scans.
Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at the trust, said: ‘We fully understand these very difficult, but necessary decisions are upsetting for our expectant parents.
‘We’d like to reassure expectant parents in north Essex they will still receive the best care and support on our maternity units.’
Some fear the rules will eventually become as strict as during the first lockdown, when many pregnant women were forced to give birth alone as hospitals shut to all visitors because of the pandemic.
Many hospitals did not ease restrictions for several months, despite the NHS issuing guidance which stated that, wherever possible, mums should be accompanied by their partners for scans, antenatal visits and childbirth.
Campaigners have previously warned that mothers and babies have better clinical outcomes when a woman’s partner is actively involved in the pregnancy and present throughout labour.
Metro has asked NHS England whether the national guidance on maternity visits will change again in light of the current situation.