Bishop's Stortford mum Chloe Ribeiro campaigns for better births amid Covid restrictions
A pregnant Bishop’s Stortford woman is urging Princess Alexandra Hospital to lift its restrictions on birth partners being present at scans, appointments, labour and postnatal care.
At the start of the Covid-19 crisis, hospitals across the UK were forced to drastically change their maternity treatment. Birth partners were not permitted to attend antenatal scans, not allowed onto wards until ‘established labour’ had started and were prompted to leave after the birth.
When lockdown sanctions started to ease in the summer, expectant parents were hopeful that pregnancy care would return to normal, but many restrictions have remained in place.
Chloe Ribeiro, 28, and husband Thiago, 33, are expecting their second child in January. The couple live in South Street with their three-year-old son Mateo, who attends Blues Pre-School.
Chloe experienced a traumatic labour in 2017 when Mateo was born at PAH in Harlow. He was delivered via an emergency C-section and they stayed in hospital for five days – 36 hours of which Mateo spent in the neonatal intensive care unit.
This time around, Chloe is worried about Thiago having to leave the hospital just hours after their second baby arrives – at a time when she needs him most.
“My fear is not having my husband there after the baby's born. I was so weak from my C-section,” she said. “Whenever I’ve had any dealings with midwives they've been amazing. But it’s not the same, is it? Asking a stranger to take you to the toilet.
“I'm terrified at the prospect of having another traumatic experience and having to cope alone on the postnatal ward.”
Chloe has teamed up with national campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed, which is working with Rutland and Melton MP Alicia Kearns to ensure that NHS trusts permit pregnant women to have a birth partner present for all scans and stages of labour.
Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of the group, said: “We're gravely concerned about the long-term impact of these measures on mothers’ mental health. Medical research shows a strong link between stress during pregnancy and postnatal depression, as well as low birth weight for babies.
“We must take precautionary measures to reduce the spread of Covid, but we also need to be aware that we are creating a future mental health epidemic by forcing women to go through this alone.”
Chloe has reached out to Stortford MP Julie Marson for help and joined the #ButNotMaternity campaign on social media, where women write the hashtag across their bumps to raise awareness of issues they face.
Thankfully Chloe, who works as a nanny, has experienced a straightforward pregnancy so far, but has had to attend all antenatal appointments alone, meaning Thiago, who works in IT, missed out on their routine 12-week and 20-week scans.
“He’s dealt with it pretty well,” she said. “I’m moaning about how hard it is to not have anyone there but he’s not been able to see the scans. He’s been very good. But obviously you’ve got that part of you that thinks ‘He should be able to see this’.”
On October 5, PAH amended its maternity restrictions. Partners are now allowed into the anomaly scan, which is routinely given at around 20 weeks, but they are still not allowed to attend the pregnancy dating scan, offered at around 12 weeks, which in many cases is the first instance where parents get to see their baby. However, if the sonographer detects a problem, the partner will be allowed in the room.
For women who go into labour at home, partners are allowed to accompany them for an assessment. They are permitted to stay with them if they are in active labour, but for those in early labour the couple will be advised to go home together.
Women who are induced are not allowed to have their partners with them as this takes place in a shared area. When they are transferred to a private room, their partners are then able to join them.
After all births, partners are required to leave the hospital as soon as the mothers and babies are transferred to the postnatal ward.
Chloe said: “Women have been forgotten at their most vulnerable. They're going through miscarraiges, receiving devastating information, the pain of early labour and the stress of postnatal confusion alone. This has to stop.”
On its website, PAH states that it is keeping the guidance under review. It says: “We are continually looking at how we can make positive changes for women, babies and their families in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Safety is our absolute priority and as Covid-19 can be transmitted by people who show no symptoms, we must take all appropriate measures to protect women, babies, their families and our staff.”
Details of PAH’s maternity rules can be found on its website.