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

18/05/2020

This information will be updated on a regular basis as new guidance is issued.

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. 

The measures outlined by the prime minister on 16 March 2020 regarding pregnant women are precautionary. 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. 

Our maternity services are making changes to help respond to coronavirus and protect our patients staff and visitors. 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 have created separate areas and 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.

We know this is a time of concern for you and we have developed an information leaflet (06/04/20), covering some frequently asked questions women may have.

In addition, there will be some key changes to our maternity services as follows:


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 7 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 are continuing to offer ultrasound scans at 12 weeks and 20 weeks at present, so if you have a 12-week or 20-week scan scheduled, please come to hospital for this as planned.
  • We will continue to arrange additional scans where clinically necessary and your doctor or midwife will tell you if this applies to you.
  • Unfortunately, at this time it will not be possible to bring someone with you to the scan. This is in line with our updated visitors policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, after your sonographer or doctor has finished your scan, you'll be able to take a video recording of it. You may also be able to call your partner or family at the end of your scan. Find out more here.

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.


Birth partners and visitors 

  • At present, you may only have one named birthing partner with you for the duration of your labour and delivery. If they have a cough, cold, fever or upset tummy, they must not come with you.
  • Unfortunately, at this time we can no longer have birth partners visiting on the antenatal or postnatal wards or staying overnight. This is to help prevent the chances of any infection spreading.  
  • No children will be allowed on the maternity wards.


Antenatal classes and tours

  • All face-to-face antenatal classes, tours and drop-in sessions have been cancelled until further notice.
  • We have prepared information on useful resources you can access online to help prepare you for the birth of your baby. Please click here.
  • You can watch a video about our service by clicking here.

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. 


Temporary suspension of home birth services and the Edgware Birth Centre

In line with other hospital trusts in north central London, the Royal Free London is putting new measures in place for women due to give birth during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. This is to ensure the trust can continue to deliver safe maternity care to all women having a baby under our care.

At the end of March the Royal Free London temporarily suspended home births services to ensure that women and their babies have the safest birth possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following assessment against the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Royal College of Midwives guidance for provision of midwife-led settings and home birth in the evolving coronavirus pandemic, and based upon key criteria, including staffing levels, we are now able to reinstate a restricted home birth service at the Royal Free London from 7 May 2020. The restricted home birth service will be offered to those women previously booked for home birth.

Please note, the temporary suspension of the Edgware Birth Centre continues to be in place and is likely to remain in place up to end of August 2020, at which point it will be re-assessed to determine if it needs to be extended. 

We know that this a difficult time and would like to reassure women due to give birth that the trust supports all women’s choices; please discuss alternative options with your midwife. We thank you for supporting us to deliver safe care to all women and their babies and apologise for any inconvenience. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your midwife. 


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: 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.  


Out of hours support for you and your baby – Our ‘Stars at Night’ team

The ‘Stars at Night’ midwifery team are now providing an exclusive out of hours telephone support service. They will be able to give advice on feeding and caring for your new born, as well as lend a kind listening ear during night-time hours if you’re awake and have any questions.

If you need any support with feeding and the care of your baby between the hours of 10pm to 8am please call 077730 579 529 where a dedicated midwife will be available to support you.


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:

Maternity helpline:
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


Suspension of birth registrations

We have been notified by the registry offices in Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Islington that birth registrations have been suspended until further notice due to the pandemic.

This means the 42-day legal deadline for registering a birth is not applicable during this time. Families can make a claim for child benefit or universal credit prior to the birth being registered. For more information, please see below links:


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.