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Maternity group provides virtual support for new mums in Bishop's Stortford, Sawbridgeworth and villages

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Women in the Bishop's Stortford area who have given birth during the Covid-19 pandemic are invited to join a virtual support group.

Hayley Dean, a maternity associate practitioner, launched the group in April and hopes to reach out to even more mothers now that the second lockdown has come into effect.

Antenatal and postnatal care in Bishop's Stortford is orchestrated from Lister Hospital in Stevenage – even if mums give birth at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow or The Rosie Birth Centre in Cambridge.

Newborn baby in hospital (43042200)
Newborn baby in hospital (43042200)

The team of community midwives Hayley works with also covers Sawbridgeworth, Hunsdon, the Hadhams, Standon, Puckeridge, the Pelhams, Buntingford and Royston.

Mothers living in these towns and villages are welcome to join Hayley's video call every Thursday from 11am to midday – although sessions frequently overrun. Topics of discussion cover anything and everything, such as maternal wellbeing, feeding issues and birth stories.

Jessica Kensek, a baby wearing pro takes part in the calls and provides women with her knowledge on a multitude of different types of baby carriers. Another expert, retired health visitor and lactation consultant Frances Smith is also on hand to offer advice to worried parents but if anyone reports a major issue, they are advised to speak to a doctor.

Women who live near one another are encouraged to meet up to go for walks or grab a takeaway coffee as babies and pre-school children do not count towards the two-person limit on meeting outdoors. "Honestly, so many friendships have come out of this," said Hayley.

"I want mums in the area to join if they're feeling isolated and alone at this strange time," she said. "The more support you get... and having these groups is just really important."

When the first lockdown was implemented in March, hospitals were forced to drastically change their maternity treatment. Birth partners were not allowed to attend antenatal scans, not allowed onto wards until ‘established labour’ had started and were prompted to leave after the birth. Many of these restrictions remain in place and, as a result, thousands of women have not had the birth that they dreamed of.

READ ALSO Stortford mum campaigns for birth changes at PAH amid Covid restrictions

Hayley has two children of her own – Katie, 13, and Jamie, 9 – and understands that extra support is needed now more than ever. "I remember how anxious I felt as a new mum," she said.

While the group was originally intended for women who have given birth since March, women with slightly older babies are welcome to take part in the online calls if they also feel secluded as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

If you would like to be added to Hayley's maternity support group, email hayleydean@nhs.net.

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