COVID-19 (coronavirus): Information for maternity service users

NHS Guidance: Pregnancy and your risk from COVID-19

COVID-19 (coronavirus) information for maternity patients planning to give birth at the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust London

We would like to take this opportunity to update you about your maternity care at the Royal Free London during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and reassure you that yours and your baby’s safety at this time is an absolute priority for us. 

There is currently no clear evidence to suggest that pregnant women are at a greater risk from COVID-19 than any other healthy individual or that they will pass the infection to their unborn baby while they are pregnant. However, we are still learning more about how this virus affects pregnancy and therefore we advise pregnant women to be cautious and to minimise the risk of catching the virus. 

COVID-19 vaccination 

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that pregnant women should be offered COVID-19 vaccines at the same time as people of the same age or risk group.

Booking a vaccination

You can book or manage your COVID-19 vaccination through the national booking system

Maternity services: who can attend

We would like to reassure you that we are taking extra care in how we are looking after all women who come into our services to make sure they stay safe.

We are following government guidance to care for those who have or are suspected to have COVID-19. This ensures that those women who are unaffected are also kept safe and well. As a precaution, you should follow government advice about social distancing; stay away from public places and avoid anyone who has symptoms suggestive of COVID-19.

One partner/companion is able to attend all antenatal clinics and pregnancy scans

  • Two birth partners are able to support women on the labour ward and the birth centres.
  • One partner/companion is able to support women in early labour and undergoing induction of labour throughout the 24-hour period.
  • Victoria Ward and 5 South (Antenatal/Postnatal wards): one partner/companion able to visit throughout a 24 hour period.
  • One partner/companion able to attend with women in Maternity Day Unit (Barnet) and Day Assessment Unit (RFH) and Triage cross site.
  • Women have Covid tests on admission to the inpatient wards. Partners/companions are not tested. If a partner or companions have a positive Covid 19 test or Covid 19 symptoms, please do not attend the hospital.
  • Face masks are worn by everyone who enters our hospitals. Please wash your hands and use hand gel when you enter and leave the ward,

Your partner will be screened each time they enter a maternity service. If at any time your partner experiences symptoms of coronavirus or presents with a positive COVID-19 screening, they will need to stay at home and self-isolate.

Antenatal appointments 

  • We will contact you to discuss any changes to your upcoming appointment. If we make any changes to your upcoming appointment we will telephone you, otherwise please attend as planned.
  • We may offer you a telephone or video appointment to replace your face-to-face  appointment, but we will discuss this with you first.
  • Glucose tolerance test appointments will still be held in hospital. If you have a glucose tolerance test scheduled, please come to hospital for your appointment.
  • If you or a member of your household has any symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating, do not attend your routine appointments or come to the hospital. If you live alone, appointments can be postponed by seven days. If you live with others, in line with the government’s recommendation this should be 14 days.   
  • To cancel or postpone your appointment, please telephone our call centre on 020 3758 2022 (open 9am-4pm, Monday to Friday) and if you have any questions you can ask to speak with a midwife or doctor.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, and are unwell, or require urgent medical advice, please call the labour ward helpline numbers below:

Labour ward 24-hour helpline

  • Barnet Hospital: 020 8216 4408
  • Royal Free Hospital: 020 7794 0500 extension 33850/33849

Scans

  • We offer ultrasound scans at 12 weeks and 20 weeks. If you have a 12-week or 20-week scan scheduled, please come to hospital for this as planned.
  • We will arrange additional scans where clinically necessary. Your doctor or midwife will tell you if this applies to you.

Please be advised, if you are due to attend an antenatal or ultrasound appointment at the hospital, please do not attend:

  • if you or someone you live with is experiencing any of the following symptoms; a new continuous cough or high temperature.
  • if you or someone you live with is currently in self-isolation.

If the above applies to you, please contact the maternity call centre on 020 3758 2022 and select option 4.

Antenatal classes and tours

There are also multiple mobile apps that provide helpful information about pregnancy, birth and parenting. The ‘Baby Buddy' app is very popular and free.

What happens if I go into labour during my self-isolation period?

  • If you are in self-isolation and think you are in labour, please contact your maternity unit for advice. If you are planning to give birth at the Royal Free Hospital, please call the labour ward helpline on 020 7794 0500 extension 33850/33849. If you are planning to give birth at Barnet Hospital, please call 020 8216 4408.
  • Please let us know if you have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or if someone in your household is affected. If your symptoms are mild, they will encourage you to stay at home in early labour, which is standard practice.

When you and your maternity team decide you need to attend the maternity unit:

  • You will be advised to arrive via private transport where possible.
  • Someone will meet you at the entrance to give you a mask, which you need to keep on until you are in a room.
  • COVID-19 testing will be arranged for you. 

Home birth services and the Edgware Birth Centre

The Royal Free London has reinstated home birth services and reopened Edgware Birth Centre.

If you would like more information about the centre/options on where you can give birth, please contact your midwife.

You can also find more details about Edgware Birth Centre including contact details here. Further information about our home birth services can be found here.

What to expect when you get home after you have given birth

Your midwife will call you the day after you are discharged to ask you how you and your baby are, to answer any questions you may have and to plan your care. If you do not receive a call by 3pm the day after you are discharged, please call the unit where you had your baby:

  • Barnet Hospital / Edgware Birthing Centre: 020 8216 4408
  • Royal Free Hospital: 020 7794 0500 ext 33850/33849

You can also call us on our maternity helpline: 0203 758 2022, option 4 (open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm)

Your midwife will visit you at home when your baby is five days old and telephone you after your baby’s birth to check in and make a plan if you need further care. The health visitor will contact you between 10 and 14 days.

Before the midwife visits you, they will contact you to ask if you or any member of your househould has symptoms of COVID-19 (a fever and/or a new and persistent cough) or are  self-isolating.

It is very important that you tell your midwife if you or a member of your household has symptoms or are self-isolating. Unless there is a pressing emergency, midwives will not be able to complete home visits until the last member of the family has completed their 7 days of self-isolating for symptoms, or 14 days if self-isolating for a household member with symptoms.

When your midwife visits you, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission they will:

  • wear a mask, apron and gloves
  • ask to see only mum and baby, and in a separate room to other members of the household
  • maintain social distancing as far as possible  leave the used apron, gloves and masks in a sealed orange bag in your house which can be disposed of after 72 hours in your normal household disposal

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the maternity team on one of the numbers above.

Before leaving the hospital you should have received a booklet titled 'Your postnatal maternity guide'. This booklet provides supplementary information about your recovery following childbirth, what to look out for as well as well as information about the care of your baby. It also signposts you and your family to other sources of information.

Feeding and caring for your baby

We have prepared information for you with regard to feeding and caring for your baby – please click here. This information provides details of useful resources that you can access online.  

Maternity helpline

Please contact the maternity helpline in the first instance with any questions about your care. The maternity helpline team will answer your questions, or transfer you to another team if required:
020 3758 2022 and select option 4, available 9am-4pm, Monday to Friday

Please remember you can also call us on the labour ward helpline numbers (above) if you have any other general (non-COVID 19) concerns about your pregnancy. These include:

  • reduction in your baby’s movements
  • vaginal bleeding
  • if your waters have broken
  • abdominal pain

Information from the NHS: Pregnancy and coronavirus

NHS.uk has dedicated information about pregnancy and coronavirus here:  www.nhs.uk/pregnancy-and-coronavirus

The following information leaflets are available on their website:

  • Planning your birth
  • Looking after yourself and your baby in pregnancy
  • Parent information for newborn babies

Useful resources

Thank you for your understanding and support

We remain committed to providing you with outstanding care and have dedicated staff working hard to ensure you have a safe and positive pregnancy and birth. Our maternity staff will remain working at the hospital to care for you and your baby throughout the antenatal, labour and postnatal periods. There may be times when less staff are available than usual, but we have an extra layer of midwives and doctors on duty 24 hours a day to provide support.

Our top priority is to provide the best service we can for you and we thank you for your understand during this challenging time and your support in helping us to keep you, your family and your baby safe.