Women's views on the visiting restrictions during COVID-19 in an Irish maternity hospital
Due to the coronavirus infection, visitors to all hospitals were greatly restricted in the UK. In maternity hospitals, only partners of women in labour were permitted to attend the hospital.
This study aimed to gain an understanding of women's experiences of visiting restrictions imposed due to COVID-19.
Women who attended the hospital for outpatient appointments and who were inpatients on the antenatal or postnatal ward during a two-week period were asked to complete an anonymous survey.
A total of 422 surveys were completed. The majority of women (97.6%) agreed that the hospital made adequate preparations for them to feel safe. Most women reported that the restrictions are a good thing and several advantages were identified. Women cited not having their partner with them as the main negative consequence to the restrictions.
Although women miss having their partner for support during scans and to help after the baby is born, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the safety aspect of the restrictions and the support received from staff is considered by women when making recommendations to a maternity hospital about whether, or how, to ease restrictions on visiting.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March 2020. Due to the pandemic, visiting restrictions were implemented in all hospitals throughout Ireland and were recommended by the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2020) and the WHO (2020). Only partners of women in labour were permitted to attend all maternity hospitals in Ireland. No other visiting was permitted; however, exceptions were made for bereaved parents and in extenuating circumstances. At all times throughout the pandemic, women were facilitated to have one nominated person with them in the labour ward and for the birth of their baby, including births by caesarean section. Women had to attend all outpatient visits alone and no visitors were permitted during admission to the antenatal or postnatal wards in this hospital.
While pregnant women do not appear to be more likely to contract COVID-19 than the general population (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2020), visiting restrictions were required to protect the safety of mothers, babies and staff working in the hospital (Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2020; WHO, 2020). Furthermore, given space restrictions within the hospital, social distancing would not be possible if partners and children were to attend with women for appointments and visiting women on antenatal and postnatal wards. As COVID-19 is a new virus, there is limited information about the impact of these visiting restrictions. Anecdotal information regarding women's experience of visiting restrictions has been mixed. Some women appear to feel safer knowing there are fewer people in the hospital. On the other hand, women appeared to find it difficult to attend appointments alone and missed having their partner and other family members visit while they were admitted to hospital.
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