I am a case loading midwife, working during the coronavirus pandemic. This is my personal account of what we are doing in my area to keep our women and ourselves safe, and the barriers we are facing.
Our pregnant women are still being offered good choices in their birth experience such as homebirth and water birth, so long as they are well. I did two lovely home births this week. We are definitely seeing a rise in people transferring to our homebirth service. I do think there is a concern nationally about high risk women choosing to homebirth unassisted, in areas where maternity services have suspended homebirth as an option. Because women in my area still have the option of a homebirth, it’s not something we’re experiencing.
Birthing partners and limited visits
Partners are allowed at births including cesarean sections. Also, we’ve had lots of very positive feedback from the women to say that not having their partners or visitors on the wards hadn’t been as bad as they thought, as they have talked and bonded more with other new mums and made new friends. It’s difficult for them without the support of family in the postnatal period but with encouragement they can usually see it as a positive, a time for them to bond as a family and get to know their little ones. Dads are actually very positive realising that it means they get to spend much more time with their partners and new baby.
Appointments and new ways of working
My Trust are doing just as many face to face antenatal visits. We do virtual appointments at booking and 16 weeks in the vast majority of cases but GPs locally are refusing to see women at 25 and 31 weeks, so we have changed the schedule to include these in midwifery care. We are using well midwives, who are isolating at home for whatever reason, to do phone clinics for booking and 16 week appointments which lifts the pressure off those of us working clinically. They also ring around all of the women due to be seen to make sure they’re well and understand that they need to attend appointments alone. I’m a case loading midwife so I know my mums to be/new mums well and do feel I’ve been able to support and reassure them effectively. I know that sadly not everyone is in this position though.
Staff levels and wellbeing
Annual leave has been cancelled. Nobody has complained about this though (or at least nobody that I’m aware of). We were expecting it and realise it’s vital. Lots of staff are also picking up extra shifts. If staffing levels drop though the pressure will be enormous.
My trust have been very proactive regarding training and we are all being supported in terms of wellbeing. Accommodation has been provided for staff unable to go home and wellness packages and mental health support is in place. We’ve even been provided with a pop-up supermarket.
Our local community are also amazing. Most staff could access a free hot meal most days if they chose to from various donations, school, restaurants and local sports teams. Hand cream, treats, snacks etc are always coming in. We feel so appreciated and loved
One of our biggest issues is PPE
Even for confirmed COVID-positive women we are given less protection than we are normally given when caring for women with flu. Working in community, this has its own issues. Statistically we know that the chances are that viral loads in homes are likely to be high due to the number of people present in small spaces, more soft furnishings, less stringent cleaning routines etc. The apron and mask we are given are unlikely to offer us any real protection.
When we leave the houses we then have to transport the contaminated personal protective equipment (PPE) in our own vehicles, we’re wearing uniform that is likely to be contaminated and we are stood on pavements trying to clean the equipment we have used because that too will be contaminated. We’re not protected in the same way that hospital staff are. We are walking in to homes where there may be 4 or 5 people in the same room that we need to be in, as everyone is at home.
We keep being told effective hand washing is key but we’re doing that in environments which are often less than clean, and in cases of COVID-confirmed women we can’t wash our hands at all as we’re unable to remove our PPE until we’ve left the house. It all feels very unsafe both in terms of staff contracting COVID-19 and cross contamination to other women, colleagues and our family.
The support we are lacking comes from Public Health England and the Government. PPE guidance and availability is pitiful and dangerous and I believe is based on availability rather than need or any scientific basis.
Do you work in maternity services? Or perhaps you are expecting a baby?
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