Being pregnant and preparing to welcome a newborn baby into the world is supposed to be one of the most exciting times of your life.
Although there is no evidence to suggest pregnant women are more likely to get seriously ill from Covid-19, they have been put on the list of vulnerable people as a precaution.
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Alongside that, the pandemic forced hospitals to introduce very strict rules on who can and can’t accompany women in hospital at various stages of the pregnancy and birth.
Although these are being gradually lifted, visitor restrictions and birth partner rules at each hospital vary and are still limited.
In light of this, SurreyLive has collated the rules on maternity visiting and birth partners at every NHS hospital trust in the county in the list below.
These are Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, Ashford and St Peter’s NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust.
Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust
Frimley Health updated its visiting arrangements on September 15. All women and support partners have been encouraged to attend appointments on time and wait outside the hospital if they arrive early.
At antenatal and postnatal appointments in midwifery hubs and antenatal clinics, and at ultrasound appointments, the hospital allows women to attend with one support partner.
Due to space restrictions, support partners are asked to stand behind the woman’s chair in the waiting area.
Women have been asked not to bring a partner into waiting areas when attending maternity triage, the day assessment unit or the maternity assessment unit because the areas are too small to accommodate social distancing.
On the antenatal ward and upon induction of labour, and on the postnatal ward or transitional care unit, one support partner can accompany women but only between 9am and 9pm. The hospital asks for this to be the same person supporting the woman during labour.
When giving birth in the labour ward or the birth centre, the hospital allows one support partner to be in the room for the duration of a woman’s time there. Partners are asked not to use any of the shared facilities.
For planned caesarean sections, one support partner can be present from admission and during theatre, and they can remain on the postnatal ward in line with postnatal visiting rules; between 9am and 9pm.
Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust
The Epsom and St Helier trust provides maternity care for around 5,000 mothers and their babies every year.
Women admitted to the maternity wards have been able to choose one visitor who must be the birth partner. They are able to attend for the duration of the woman’s admission. The birth partner is identified at the premises by being given a green wristband.
Only in specific circumstances does the trust allow a second visitor if social distancing can be exercised. This includes a second birth partner for women in labour. No children under the age of 16 are allowed to visit or accompany women to appointments.
At antenatal scans, one support person is allowed to attend with the woman. Unfortunately, the trust says it is not yet able to support partners attending all other antenatal appointments which are conducted face to face, because the waiting areas do not allow a high volume of people to socially distance.
On the postnatal and antenatal wards, visiting hours are between 3pm and 8pm only. Partners are not able to stay overnight.
But when women are in active labour, birth partners can stay for the entire labour and immediate postnatal period.
If the birth occurs during the night, the trust promises every effort will be made to leave women with their partner in the delivery room for “a reasonable length of time”, as partners will be asked to return home once the woman is settled on the postnatal ward.
If a woman is admitted for induction of labour, their partner can stay once the labour has started and once the woman is having regular contractions.
For women having planned caesarean sections, partners can accompany women from admission, into theatre (unless a general anaesthetic is given) and into the recovery area. Usual postnatal visiting applies once you are transferred to the ward; between 3pm and 8pm only.
For low-risk women, a six-hour discharge will be in place to reduce the risk of transmission.
Apart from the birth partner, the trust has a strict policy on visits and will not allow any other member of the woman’s household to attend the hospital.
Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
At East Surrey Hospital’s trust, maternity wards are open for visiting of one birth partner.
At antenatal scans, the trust permits one birthing partner but no children.
On the antenatal ward and during the induction of labour, one birthing partner is allowed for a one-hour scheduled visit per day. The time should be agreed in advance with the ward.
On the postnatal ward, one birthing partner for a one-hour scheduled visit per day is allowed and once again, the time should be agreed in advance with the ward.
At neonatal units, both parents and a carer for a baby are permitted.
Ashford and St Peter’s NHS Foundation Trust
Visiting is restricted to one named birth partner at the 20-week scan, during labour, and for the first hour after your baby is born.
The trust is allowing a two-hour time slot for all women admitted to the maternity unit who are either pregnant or who have given birth; this visiting slot is for a single named birth partner only.
There is no access for any other visitors, including children or siblings, and women will not be able to bring anyone with them to any of their other appointments, scans or check-ups.
The trust is offering a swab to screen for Covid-19 to screen all women who are admitted to the maternity unit, regardless of symptoms.
From September 7 this was extended to include birth partners of women who are having planned caesarean sections.
The trust allows a birth partner to join the women on the labour ward once their labour has started. However, the partner will not be able to be with them on the ward at the beginning of the induction of labour.
The birth partner will be able to stay with the woman for a short time after the baby is born and will be provided with a daily two-hour time slot to visit for the remainder of their hospital stay.
With caesarean sections the birth partner is able to go into the theatre with the woman as long as they do not have any symptoms of COVID-19.
Children are not permitted to visit anywhere in the hospital.
Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust
For ultrasound scans, one partner can attend the 12 and 20 weeks scan only. Women have been asked to have their partner wait outside and call them in to the scan room when it is ready.
The trust says it is unable to accommodate partners attending any other scans or antenatal appointments, except in exceptional circumstances by prior arrangement, due to capacity and the hospital trying to maintain social distancing.
Partners will not be able to remain with women for a clinic or vaccinations appointment after the scan and will need to wait outside of the department.
Two birth partners are welcome to accompany any women while they are on the delivery suite, this is not dependant on stage of labour. Only one birth partner may support the woman in theatre if a caesarean section is required. Partners are required to wear face coverings throughout their visit, even in the side rooms.
While on the antenatal ward (St Catherine’s) or postnatal ward (Shere), one partner only may visit between 8am and 8pm for as long as you wish.