Pregnant women and birth partners

Pregnancy and childbirth can be some of the most challenging times of a woman’s life, with potential long-term implications for both physical and mental health, and are not something that should be experienced without the close support of a partner, family member or friend.

Restrictions in place during the pandemic have left many pregnant women attending hospital without that support. Despite new Government guidance recommending birth partners be accommodated, stringent limitations still remain in place in many hospitals, including in Newcastle.

I have been in discussions with the local NHS regarding their policy, following feedback from many concerned women.

Last week in the House of Commons I also asked the Prime Minister to do what he can to make sure pregnant women don’t have to go into labour alone during the pandemic and have a birth partner with them from the point of admission to hospital.

Pregnancy can be one of the most challenging times of a woman’s life, with potential long-term implications for both…

Posted by Catherine McKinnell on Monday, 12 October 2020


I followed this up with a letter with more evidence and to urge the Prime Minister to intervene to address what barriers remain in place, and provide whatever support is necessary, to enable Hospital Trusts to accommodate birth partners. We cannot allow a generation of babies to be born to mothers who are not being given the care and support that they clearly need.

The RVI are now allowing birth partners to attend 12- and 20-week scans, as well as for women admitted in spontaneous labour or for elective caesarean section. I remain concerned about the Trust’s position that the social distancing restraints in the induction of labour suite mean that birthing partners can only attend once women are transferred to single rooms. I also remain concerned about birth partners not being permitted for later developmental scans, which can potentially mean devastating news being delivered to a pregnant woman without anyone there to support her.

I would like to understand why the hospital consider it proportionate to leave women alone without a birth partner to support them in the induction suite  – which can be painful and uncomfortable for many hours – when their birth partner should be considered in a bubble with them for Covid purposes. I have asked NHS Hospitals for clarity on this issue given the number of women affected by this approach, and whether they have explored all possible options for enabling birth partners to be present from admission to hospital rather than the point of established labour.

The local NHS have acknowledged there are concerns and are asking anyone with specific worries to talk to their community midwife or consultant, which I would encourage people to do. You can listen to the discussion I had with BBC Radio Newcastle this morning about this issue here.

I’m grateful for the efforts Newcastle NHS during this Covid19 pandemic, but I remain determined to ensure that we don’t look back with regret at how we failed to listen to and respond to the needs of pregnant women and new mums during this crisis.