‘It’s really isolating’: The pregnant women missing key hospital checks
- Credit: MOLLY BALDRY/KAY WILLMOTT
Hospitals are cancelling crucial face-to-face checks with pregnant women because of the pandemic.
Kay Willmott confesses that this pregnancy – her third – has been by far her worst.
The 30-year-old from Dereham says she has felt isolated because of the limited contact with any health staff.
While national guidelines say some appointments can happen remotely during Covid-19, women are supposed to have at least six in-person visits before giving birth.
But some mums we spoke to have received half the recommended amount. We also discovered crucial check-ups for blood pressure and foetal movement are being cancelled at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).
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“I haven’t met my consultant at the NNUH, and I don’t know what they look like,” said Mrs Willmott, who owns the Elle Belles beauty studio in Dereham. “I’ve seen my midwife twice, normally you would see them more than that.
“It’s interesting for me because I’ve got two other children, so I’ve obviously had non-Covid pregnancies and it is really strange how different this one is.
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“It’s really isolating. When you are worried something’s going on, it’s hard to get that reassurance. Without a doubt, this has been my worst pregnancy.”
NNUH bosses insisted they were following national guidance, giving women at least six face-to-face visits, and three virtual appointments.
But expectants mums we have spoken to say that is not the case.
One expectant mum in Norwich said she was meant to have an appointment at 34 weeks, but this was never scheduled. When she rang the hospital, she was told it was not happening due to Covid-19.
Guidance from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) state that the 34-week appointment should take place, despite the pandemic, for vital blood pressure and urine checks.
While she praised the care received from her midwife, the mum-to-be added: “I have been frustrated with the restrictions my partner has faced too. He’s not been allowed to any scans or appointments, and it feels illogical as we live in the same household.”
NNUH bosses said that at the start of Covid-19, they had to relocate the community midwifery venues from GP surgeries – meaning some women may have missed a face-to-face appointment then – but this was quickly resolved.
They also said that occasionally, appointments may be rescheduled due to “clinical priorities and service continuity”.
“We understand that the Covid-19 pandemic is a particularly worrying time for parents-to-be and we would like to reassure expectant mums that we are still here for you and the health and safety of you and your baby continues to be a priority to us,” an NNUH spokesman added.
They also said partners are now able to attend most scans.
Megan, from Norwich, gave birth to her first child in August and said did not see any healthcare staff face-to-face between 20 weeks and 32 weeks.
Her 28-week appointment - which the RCOG guidelines also advise is held in person - was done over the phone.
“I was meant to have nine appointments plus extra scans as my pregnancy was high-risk,” she said.
“The extra scans were cancelled due to Covid, and I only saw the midwife five times.”
Molly Baldry, a teacher from North Walsham, is 27 weeks pregnant with her second child.
“The only in-person appointment I’ve had is my eight-week booking appointment,” the 24-year-old said.
“My next one is scheduled for next week, but that’s just been rearranged due to staff sickness.”
The NNUH spokesman added that anyone with concerns about a lack of in-person appointments should contact their community midwife via Medicom.
Emma Hald, from Halesworth, gave birth to her second child Millie, at the James Paget Hospital in June.
“All my antenatal appointments were when they should have been and face-to-face with my midwives,” she said.
“My 12 and 20 scans were just before Covid kicked off but I had several growth scans towards the end of my pregnancy which went ahead with no problems.”
But the 31-year-old said she had heard of friends experiencing cancellations elsewhere.
A spokeswoman for the hospital said all women are offered at least six in-person antenatal appointments, mostly more.
Jo Mountfield, vice president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), said anyone with concerns should contact their midwife.
•What do the guidelines say?
According to national guidelines, pregnant women are meant to have at least six appointments in person during coronavirus.
These are the booking appointment, which the Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians say can be combined with the dating scan in the early stages of pregnancy; the 18 to 20-week anomaly scan; 28-week appointment with urine and blood pressure checks plus foetal movement; and four visits every fortnight between 32 and 40 weeks.
Remaining appointments – including the 16-week screening review for all women; 25-week visit with blood pressure and urine check for first-time mums and 31-week check-up also for first-time mums can be virtual if necessary.
The NICE schedule of antenatal care, drawn up before Covid-19, recommends a minimum of 10 appointments for healthy women, and seven for those who are already mums.