Pregnant people in labour will soon be able to be accompanied by two birthing partners again in hospitals run by East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT).
Visiting hours on antenatal and postnatal wards are also being extended in maternity services.
The Trust’s maternity visiting guidance was updated earlier this month to keep expectant parents, babies, and staff safe. This was because more pregnant people were in hospital with COVID-19 and testing positive in the community. Maternity staffing levels were also being severely impacted by the virus.
However with approval from the Trust’s Infection Prevention and Control team, led by Chief Nurse Giles Thorpe, maternity teams are now pleased to announce some of the recent visiting restrictions are being relaxed at Colchester and Ipswich hospitals, and the Coastal Birthing Unit at Clacton Hospital.
From Monday 31 January:
- Two birthing partners may accompany someone in labour from the point of their admission to the maternity unit
- Visiting to antenatal and postnatal wards at Colchester and Ipswich hospitals will be from 8am to 8pm every day for one named visitor (this should be a birthing partner). Outside of labour, someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 cannot have a visitor on antenatal and postnatal wards.
Giles Thorpe is Chief Nurse and Director of Infection Prevention and Control at ESNEFT.
He said: “We are happy to be in a position where we are able to reinstate two birthing partners attending our maternity units and extending visiting hours on our antenatal and postnatal wards.
“Restricting visiting in maternity is not a decision we take lightly. We appreciate the impact any decision to tighten restrictions has on our expectant parents and their families but, as always, our number one priority is to keep everyone safe in our hospitals.
“We will continue to keep all our arrangements in maternity services under regular review so we can continue to provide high quality, safe care to pregnant people and their babies.
“Although we are taking a positive step forward, I’d like to reiterate the importance of COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy and urge anyone who is expecting a baby, or planning to have a baby, to take up the offer of a vaccine. It is safe and can prevent you from becoming seriously unwell and needing hospital treatment for the virus during pregnancy.”
Reminders for birthing partners
Birthing partners must not be positive for COVID-19, or have any symptoms of COVID-19 and they must be able to wear a face mask.
Expectant parents are encouraged to have a second birthing partner on standby, should their preferred birthing partner test positive for COVID-19. They must not come into hospital.
Birthing partners are respectfully asked to:
- take a rapid test for COVID-19 before attending the maternity unit and show the evidence of a negative test result to staff, either through a photo of the test strip or via the NHS app. Tests can be ordered on the Government website
- maintain a two-metre distance from staff in the birthing room
- wear a face mask covering their nose and mouth at all times – birthing partners will be asked to leave the hospital building if they refuse to do so
- stay at the bedside (apart from when taking bathroom breaks) and remain in the birthing room with their partner.
Other appointments in maternity services
Arrangements for induction of labour, caesarean sections, attending scans and all other maternity appointments remain unchanged for now.
However, the Trust expects both a pregnant person and their support partner to take a quick test for COVID-19 (lateral flow test) before attending any appointment in maternity services.
Any partners who test positive are not able to attend and must stay at home and self-isolate. If you are pregnant and test positive, please reschedule your appointment. If your partner tests positive, and you test negative, please let us know so alternative arrangements can be made for you to safely attend.
Unfortunately, children are not able to attend any maternity appointments or visit antenatal and postnatal wards, apart from in exceptional or compassionate circumstances.
Surgical face masks must be worn at all appointments in ESNEFT hospitals to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission unless you are exempt. They must always cover your nose and mouth. You will be asked to leave the hospital building if you refuse to wear a face mask.
Please respect our staff and be kind if you are asked to put on a face mask or adjust it. Our teams are just doing their jobs and following national Infection Prevention and Control guidance by asking you to wear a face mask in our hospitals.
Detailed guidance for attending maternity appointments and visits will be updated on the ESNEFT website.