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Cath Jackson, June Brawner, Matthew Ball, Kirsty Crossley, Josie Dickerson, Nimarta Dharni, Diego Garcia Rodriguez, Ella Turner, Laura Sheard & Helen Smith
Uncertainty around the risk of COVID-19 to pregnant women and their babies prompted precautionary restrictions on their health and care during the pandemic. Maternity services had to adapt to changing Government guidance. Coupled with the imposition of national lockdowns in England and restrictions on daily activities, women’s experiences of pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period, and their access to services, changed rapidly. This study was designed to understand women’s experiences of pregnancy, labour and childbirth and caring for a baby during this time.
This was an inductive longitudinal qualitative study, using in-depth interviews by telephone with women in Bradford, UK, at three timepoints during their maternity journey (18 women at timepoint one, 13 at timepoint two and 14 at timepoint three). Key topics explored were physical and mental wellbeing, experience of healthcare services, relationships with partners and general impact of the pandemic. Data were analysed using the Framework approach. A longitudinal synthesis identified over-arching themes.
Three longitudinal themes captured what was important to women: (1) women feared being alone at critical points in their maternity journey, (2) the pandemic created new norms for maternity services and women’s care, and (3) finding ways to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic in pregnancy and with a baby.
Modifications to maternity services impacted significantly on women’s experiences. The findings have informed national and local decisions about how best to direct resources to reduce the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and the longer-term psychological impact on women during pregnancy and postnatally.