April 21, 2022
2 min read
An online study of parents in the UK who experienced a birth during the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that almost half had predominantly negative experiences, according to a study published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.
“Feelings of loneliness, insecurity and anxiety are something that were consistently expressed by the women in our study,” Ezra Aydin, PhD, a postdoc researcher at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City and a visiting researcher at the University of Cambridge Trinity College in England, Healio said. “Changes in rules and guidelines regarding birth preferences and birth partners, not only nationally, but between [National Health Service (NHS)] trust, created confusion and anxiety among families. This lack of clear guidance made many families feel a loss of choice and control over their own birth experiences. “
Results reported earlier this year from Europe also reflected negative birth experiences during the pandemic, where almost half of those who had undergone childbirth felt that COVID-19 had negatively affected maternal and neonatal care.
Recruitment of participants
As part of the UK COVID in Context of Pregnancy, Infancy and Parenting Study (CoCoPIP), Aydin and colleagues distributed an online study through social media and research and health groups between 15 July 2020 and 29 March 2021. parents before their first trimester and those with infants under 6 months of age were eligible to report their most recent birth experiences.
Characteristics of birth experience
A total of 477 parents responded to the CoCoPIP survey. Of these, 315 (66.1%) had a vaginal birth, 155 (32.6%) had one cesarean section and six (1.3%) had an unspecified delivery method. Among those who had a caesarean section, 77 (49.7%) had planned it.
The researchers said the number of cesarean sections chosen represented a “significant increase relative to prepandemic levels,” which was 7% lower between 2019 and 2020.
Although 37.4% of participants did not report changes in their birth plan and 37.4% reported changes that were not related to COVID-19, 25% reported COVID-19-related changes such as limited birth options and support.
Almost half (44.8%) of all participants did not know if anyone could attend the birth, and 2.3% stated that their birth partner could not attend due to pandemic restrictions.
Emotions about birth experience
Emotions on communication varied among the participants, the researchers wrote.
“We found that clear communication and support really helped families and increased their anxiety around childbirth in this uncertain time,” Aydin said. “Where guidance was constantly changing, some hospitals resorted to social media platforms to help keep families up to date with their guidance, creating a space for parents to ask questions and express concerns. This feeling of being supported and informed during their journey, parents helped to have a more positive birth experience during this uncertain time. “
Overall, 46.9% of participants reported mainly negative birth experiences compared with 33.2% who had mainly positive responses and 19.9% who had neutral responses.
The results highlighted that communication and support should be prioritized during childbirth.
“Our findings reinforce the importance of the role of choice and control in women’s birth experiences, as well as the need for clear communication from their healthcare providers,” Aydin said. “Ensuring consistent guidance and support for women during childbirth will help mitigate negative birth experiences in women – capturing and addressing the unique health needs of each pregnant woman.”
Going forward, Aydin expected that the ongoing CoCoPIP study “will shed light on the longitudinal impact of COVID-19 guidance and restrictions on the child’s long-term development.”