Since the start of the pandemic, home births have provided a solution for women whose hospitals banned them from having their partner at their side during labour.
But now, with the virus rapidly spreading, NHS Trusts across the South East have been cancelling home birth services, leaving mothers-to-be ‘gutted’.
It comes after ambulance chiefs warned they could no longer guarantee to respond to women giving birth at home.
Since the start of the pandemic, home births have provided a solution for women whose hospitals banned them from having their partner at their side during labour (file photo)
South East Coast Ambulance Service said: ‘Due to the current pressures across our urgent and emergency care services, we are no longer in a position to guarantee an ambulance response to those women choosing to plan their birth at home or within one of the stand-alone birth centres in the region.’
While a number of Trusts have changed their rules to allow partners into wards, some hospitals that have cancelled home births continue to insist mothers-to-be attend scans and appointments alone , contrary to official guidance.
The Mail on Sunday has campaigned to end the trauma of pregnant women going through labour and scans alone.
Last month, NHS England issued guidance which unequivocally said Trusts must find ways of allowing women to have a partner by their side at all stages.
In a win for the campaign, all trusts committed to changing their policies in line with the guidance, but the resurgence of the virus has caused some hospitals to delay implementing it, and others to reverse progress already made and to re-impose restrictions.
Alicia Kearns, the campaigning Conservative MP, said: ‘Under national lockdown, families are not leaving their homes, so there is no excuse to separate a woman and her partner’
Alicia Kearns, the campaigning Conservative MP, said: ‘Under national lockdown, families are not leaving their homes, so there is no excuse to separate a woman and her partner. Ambulance pressures are grave, so if NHS Trusts cannot facilitate home births, they absolutely must abide in full by Government guidance of allowing partners to be present at all stages.’
Abbi Leibert of the campaign group But Not Maternity, said: ‘It is very stressful for parents who had seen restrictions changed for the better in their trusts, in some cases now seeing partners refused at scans and more problematically, home birth units and birthing centres closing again.’
Dr Navin Kumta, chair of NHS Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group, said: ‘The latest wave of Covid-19 is putting all of our services under pressure and with ambulance services particularly busy, we have made the difficult decision to suspend home birth services and some midwife-led units. We know how disappointing this will be at such an important time for families but it is necessary to ensure we can provide the safest service should any complications arise during a birth.’
A 2011 study found that 45 per cent of women in their first pregnancy and 12 per cent of others who planned a home birth needed to be transferred to hospital.
NHS England said: ‘Women should be offered choice in their maternity care, with appropriate risk assessments.
‘Although the current spread of Covid-19 is putting significant additional pressure on the NHS, local services continue to offer home births where it is safe to do so.’