Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

COVID-19 pandemic

Rights respecting care during the COVID-19 pandemic

During the pandemic, we worked to track issues that women, birthing people and healthcare professionals are experiencing, and to raise these with Trusts and policy makers. While there was an exemplary response to the crisis by many NHS Trusts, there were inconsistent, disproportionate and inhumane response by others and we saw a number of Trusts making unlawful blanket decisions without taking into account women and birthing people’s individual individual circumstances.

We heard from over 1000 women and birthing people in the first year of the pandemic, and we were deeply concerned at the experiences they were facing, including:

  • Suspension of maternity services, including homebirth and midwifery-led birth centres, an issue that was exacerbated by COVID-19 and continues to be an issue now
  • Permitting birth partners to support women and birthing people during labour, but also exceptions to wider hospital visitor restrictions at other times on a case by case basis.
  • Restricted access to pain relief such as water
  • Restricted access to maternal request caesareans
  • Loss of continuity of care and the wider impact of COVID on women and birthing people from BAME communities and other marginalised groups

What’s next for our COVID-19 work?

While the majority of visiting restrictions has been lifted by Trusts across the country, we know that there are still some implementing restrictions on overnight visiting, as reported by women and birthing people through our advice email service, and in the Telegraph recently. We are continuing to write to Trusts on an individual basis where there are unreasonable and disproportionate restrictions in place under the premise of COVID-19.

As the COVID-19 inquiries begin, we are being invited to give evidence, including to the London Assembly Health Committee on the impact of COVID. The London Assembly Health Committee heard evidence of how COVID-19 impacted the delivery of maternity services across London. Birthrights gave evidence alongside sector colleagues Pregnant then Screwed, Five X More, and the Royal College of Midwives.

Did you give birth or deliver maternity care in the COVID-19 pandemic? We want to hear from you

As inquiries begin, we are continuing to update our evidence base on the impact of COVID-19 maternity restrictions on women and birthing people giving birth and healthcare professionals delivering care. If you would like to share your story, please contact our advice team.