A troubling new study has found nine in 10 women say their birth choices were changed due to the coronavirus crisis - but the impact of the pandemic on pregnant women and mothers of young children has gone far further than the maternity ward.
Women with young children are among those who have fared most badly from the coronavirus emergency as childcare providers have been catapulted into chaos and studies have shown women have borne the brunt of childcare responsibilities and homeschooling.
Make Birth Better, a campaign group which polled 458 pregnant women for a study shared exclusively with The Independent, say women have been forced to given birth without partners and have had less access to pain relief amid Covid-19 upheaval.
Half of those polled were forced to alter their own childbirth plans in the wake of the global pandemic, while half of those reliant on support from a specialist mental health midwife said their help had been halted.
Dr Edward Morris, president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, told The Independent the findings shine a light on the challenges many pregnant women and their partners were up against when accessing maternity care during the “peak of the pandemic and beyond”.
He added: “The NHS made arrangements to ensure that women were supported and cared for safely through pregnancy, birth and the period afterwards during the pandemic. These changes were necessary to allow maternity staff to care for pregnant women and protect them from coronavirus while ensuring NHS staff and services were also protected. However, we realise that the changes to maternity care caused many women a great deal of anxiety and stress.
“We realise that there still are some aspects of care during the Covid-19 pandemic that we need to work together with NHS England, government and others to improve, including access to maternal mental health support, and we are working hard to try and do just that.”
Lizzie D’Angelo, of baby charity Tommy’s, told The Independent they “really empathised” with everyone whose maternity care has been impacted by the coronavirus crisis.
“Especially those going through pregnancy complications and loss,” she added. “Hospitals must keep their patients safe from the very real risk of Covid-19, but it’s essential that parents-to-be receive the care and support they’re entitled to.”
The already struggling childcare crisis has been pushed into crisis mode during the pandemic - with campaigners, unions and politicians warning the dearth of childminders and other providers could drive women out of the workplace.
A recent report by Early Years Alliance found one in 10 have been unable to access any formal childcare whatsoever since lockdown started lifting in spite of needing such support.
While all children have allowed to go to nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England since the beginning June, around a third of providers were yet to open their doors ahead of the summer holidays. The combination of a dearth of sufficient financial support from government and new safety measures in the wake of the global pandemic is placing the sector at risk of falling apart after years of not receiving enough funding. A quarter of childcare providers are anxious they could be closed by next year.