As I write, the so called “easing of lockdown” is taking place in the UK, following the devastation of the COVID-19 virus outbreak.
Over this time researchers and policy makers have worked together to gather data and undertake research to establish how the outbreak has impacted on women who have experienced pregnancy across the world.
During the past couple of weeks stories have particularly been emerging of the reducing levels of preterm births, causing some excitement. Researchers in Ireland and Denmark, unaware of each other’s work, discovered that locally, rates of admissions in Neonatal units were much less than in previous years, especially of those of the lowest birth weights.
Following sharing on social media, others reported the same phenomena in the Netherlands, Australia, Canada and some areas of the US, with others saying there had been no change (see https://www.independent.co.uk/health_and_wellbeing/premature-births-coronavirus-lockdown-hospitals-pregnancy-a9634556.html). The WHO estimates 15 million babies are born before 37 weeks globally and, with the high rates of death for these babies (see https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/preterm-birth), finding reasons for the reduction during the pandemic could be enlightening for the future.
Meanwhile, over the lockdown, stories have been emerging of changes in other aspects of maternity care across the UK:
- Homebirths – in some areas, though services have been reduced, some women have increased demands for birth in the safety of their home away from hospitals stricken with the virus. Questions are also arising of how many freebirths have taken place due to the closing of community based practices. (Check out the Maternity hour talks for how to support homebirth during the pandemic https://www.matflix.co.uk/post/the-highlights-supporting-pregnant-women-new-mothers-and-families)
- Routine induction of labour – on social media in some areas it has been noted the rates of inductions have reduced, while it has not changed in others
- Stillbirth – one unit has reported an increase in stillbirths, not associated with the virus https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2768389
- Breastfeeding – reports of women feeding for a longer term is being highlighted, with increased support through creative online methods (Check out the Maternity hour talk for infant feeding https://www.matflix.co.uk/post/the-highlights-covid-19-and-infant-feeding). Increasing birthweights at day 5 are being observed, but also a suggestion of increased neonatal admissions for jaundice.
It is evident that, through time, a significant number of questions and answers will emerge, including the different responses to aspects of practice and humanisation of care by the different Trusts.
It is important, therefore, for you to record your story of what you have seen and experienced during this period. In the future others may ask for your observations and experiences, and these may be key to improving maternity care in the future. Have you seen more homebirths, increased breastfeeding rates or has the focus been more medicalised approaches? In the future, your grandchild may ask you: “what did you do in the Great Pandemic of 2020?” and you will be able to produce all the details to show how midwifery practice changed and triggered improvements for all.
I encourage you to write your story, and then send it in to us here at the Forum. We will aim to use the best on here to share how midwives and midwifery care have been impacted through the effect of the lockdown. Your story needs to be told.
Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.