National government guidance on hospital visiting has changed throughout the pandemic depending on the prevalence of COVID-19 infections and local regulation on social distancing at a given time.
At a local level, visiting is subject to local discretion by trusts and other NHS bodies, please ask your midwife or maternity team for their visiting policy.
It is important that any visitors follow guidance in hospitals about getting a test, wearing a face covering, handwashing and maintaining a safe social distance from others. Depending on the situation in your area, partners may be able to attend most appointments, ultrasound scans or to visit on antenatal and postnatal wards. However, if time restrictions on visiting are in place in your local maternity service, support staff will be able to help with the needs of all women and the practical challenges of caring for newborns after birth.
Ask your midwife and check out the current guidelines at your local maternity service. The latest government guidance can be found here:
The RCM has published guidance for maternity services on re-introducing visitors: cb-reintriduction-of-visitors-in-maternity-units.pdf (rcm.org.uk)
Maternity services are working hard to keep services as normal as possible for pregnant women in their care, while ensuring their safety and the safety of staff. However, it is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections in hospital as much as possible, to protect vulnerable women and the staff caring for them.
A woman should have access to support from a person of her choosing at all stages of her maternity journey, while making sure that COVID-19 infections are prevented to keep women and staff safe. All women will be supported to have at least one partner with them during labour, birth and for the period immediately after the birth, except in an extremely limited number of circumstances.
All maternity services across the UK are doing everything they can to ensure maximum access to most appointments, including scans, for partners or support person of choice, while also balancing that with the need to keep all women, their families and staff safe.
It’s important that all visitors follow guidance in hospitals or community hubs about wearing a face covering, handwashing and maintaining a safe social distance from others. Depending on the situation in your area, partners may be asked not to attend appointments or ultrasound scans. Or they may be required or to take a test before attending the hospital or visiting on antenatal and postnatal wards. If time restrictions on visiting are in place on your midwifery unit or postnatal ward, midwifery and support staff will be able to support the needs of all women and the practical challenges of caring for newborns after birth.
Women and their support people should have access to lateral flow tests and carry out tests at home on the day of their appointment, reporting their results online immediately. This has been made available by the government for free. This will generate an email and a text message confirmation of the result to bring with you to each appointment as proof of a negative test.
The following link enables you to order free lateral flow testing kits. Visiting is subject to local discretion by trusts and other NHS bodies, ask your midwife or maternity team for their updated visiting policy.
This information may be found on your local Maternity Service’s social media channels, on their website or ask your midwife / local Maternity Women’s Voice Partnership about the current local guidance, so that you are prepared about what is likely to happen when you attend for appointments.
If your partner is not able to be with you at some points of your maternity care journey, health professionals will do all they can to ensure you feel as supported and relaxed as possible and that your partner feels as engaged and involved as possible. This may mean enabling them to link into part or all the appointment virtually.
Yes, you should be encouraged and supported to have at least one well birth partner present with you during labour and birth. However, your birth partner(s) must wear a mask in the hospital.
Having a trusted birth partner present throughout labour is known to make a significant difference to the wellbeing of women in childbirth.
If a birth partner has symptoms of coronavirus or has recently tested positive for coronavirus they should follow the current government advice and self-isolate at home for five full days and have two negative rapid (LFD) test on consecutive days*. This is important to safeguard your health, other women and babies and the maternity staff.
You may want to have a backup plan and find a potential substitute for your first-choice birth partner.
We know that for some women, their chosen birth partner(s) may be from a different household due to individual circumstances. You should be supported to have them with you unless they are unwell with coronavirus symptoms or have tested positive for coronavirus.
*The isolation advice is likely to change from the 24th of March 2022 when the government is planning to amend self-isolation requirements for asymptomatic vaccinated individuals who test positive for Covid-19.
Maternity services are working hard to keep services as normal as possible for pregnant women in their care, while ensuring their safety and the safety of staff. However, it is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19 infections in hospital as much as possible, to protect vulnerable women and the staff. A woman should have access to support from a person of her choosing at all stages of her maternity journey, while making sure that COVID-19 infections are prevented to keep women and staff safe. All women will be supported to have at least one partner with them during labour, birth and for the period immediately after the birth, except in extremely limited number of circumstances.
Midwives and all maternity care professionals want to make your whole pregnancy, birth and postnatal experience as positive as possible in what is an extremely challenging time for all of us. Please bear with us and be kind to staff – they are not in control of the regulations and do not as individuals decide local policies.
This will depend on the layout of your local maternity unit. Some units will have enough space to be able to provide you with a private room when you are being induced which should mean your partner will be able to be there with you. However, in some units, women are in bays with several other women during the induction process. It can be challenging in these areas to be able to support all women to have partners with them, due to the need for social distancing as much as possible. Both you and your partner may be asked to take a rapid lateral flow test (LFT) before attending your maternity unit.
A birth partner without symptoms should be able to attend your induction of labour, particularly if that is in a single room. Whether a partner can visit you if the induction takes place in a bay on a main ward, will be dependent on the local NHS facility’s risk assessment of safety. Social distancing rules, hand washing and face mask restrictions still apply while visitors/partners are on wards. Once you are in labour they can follow you to the birthing room. In some areas, it is possible to return home if all is well during the early parts of the induction process, so that you can be in your own environment and have the support of your partner. Ask your local maternity team if this is available in your area.
Under the current government advice, maternity units have restrictions in place for birth partners, or anyone else tested positive for COVID-19, to attend a birth. This is to protect you, your baby, midwives and other members of the maternity team and other women and their babies from catching the virus. However, this advice may change as the government is planning to amend self-isolation requirements for vaccinated and asymptomatic individuals from 24 March 2022. Try to think about who else might be able to support you.
You are encouraged to have a trusted alternative birth partner who is symptom free to be with you if your ‘first choice’ birth partner is COVID-19 positive and unable to be with you. Many midwives have been able to support women using video calls to stay in touch with their partners during parts of the labour and birth.
We know this is a really demanding situation, the midwives will be there to offer you support and kindness every step of the way.
Most caesarean and instrumental births in theatre are carried out under spinal or epidural anaesthetic, which means you will be awake, but the lower part of your body is numb so you cannot feel any pain. In this situation, everything will be done by the clinical staff – midwives, obstetricians and anaesthetists – to keep your birth partner with you.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, staff in the operating theatre will be wearing enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of infection, which will make it more difficult for them to communicate. To enable the clinicians to assist in the birth of your baby safely, it is particularly important your birth partner follows the instructions from the maternity team carefully and quickly.
Occasionally, a general anaesthetic (where you are put to sleep) may be used, particularly if your baby needs to be born urgently. During this type of caesarean birth, even pre the coronavirus pandemic, it is not possible for birth partners to be present during the birth for safety reasons.
While the maternity team will do all they can to ensure that your birth partner(s) is present for the birth, there will be some occasions when there is a need for an urgent emergency birth with epidural or spinal anaesthetic in which it will not be possible for your birth partner(s) to be present. This is because, during an emergency, operating theatres are more high-risk environments for the potential spread of coronavirus to anyone who is present. If this is the case, your maternity team will discuss this with you and will do everything they can to ensure that your birth partner(s) can see you and your baby as soon as possible after the birth.
We are asking you to follow the guidance below to keep yourself, your family, other families
and NHS staff as safe as possible during the pandemic.
- We fully support women having at least one symptom free birth partner with them during labour and birth.
- During the coronavirus pandemic, all hospitals have been restricting visitors, but there has always been an exception for a well, birthing partner during active labour and birth.
- Birth partners will be required to wear a mask or face covering when entering a hospital or take a Covid test. This applies to birth partner(s) when they are in the labour and birth room and in other clinical areas. Women in labour will not be asked to wear a mask.
- To help prevent spread of coronavirus it is particularly important that you do not attend the maternity unit if you have any symptoms of coronavirus or had any in the previous 7 days.
- If you are unwell, protect your family and NHS staff and stay at home. To prepare for this, women and their current birth partner(s) are being encouraged to think about an alternative birth partner(s) if required. This person does not need to be from the same household as you.
- If you are supporting a woman during labour and birth, please be aware of the strict infection control procedures in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus to other pregnant women and their babies, as well as other people within the hospital and the maternity staff.
- Please wash your hands regularly with soap and water and use hand sanitiser gel in clinical areas as available.
- If you cough or sneeze, please cover your mouth with a tissue and dispose of it in a bin immediately and wash your hands.
- Stay in the labour room with the woman you are supporting. Do not walk around the maternity unit unaccompanied – use the call bell if you require assistance. Consider bringing food and drink to sustain you in your role as a birth partner, as you may not be able to re-enter the maternity unit if you leave to purchase refreshments.
- If you are asked to wear any additional personal protective equipment (PPE) in addition to a mask or face covering during the labour or birth, please follow the instructions carefully and take it off before you leave the clinical area.