Expectant parents' perceptions of healthcare and support during COVID-19 in the UK: a thematic analysis.
BACKGROUND: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, expectant parents experienced changes in the availability and uptake of both National Health Service (NHS) community and hospital-based healthcare. OBJECTIVE: To examine how COVID-19 and its societal related restrictions have impacted the provision of healthcare support for pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic. METHOD: A thematic analysis using an inductive approach was undertaken using data from open-ended responses to the national COVID in Context of Pregnancy, Infancy and Parenting (CoCoPIP) Study online survey (n = 507 families). FINDINGS: The overarching theme identified was the way in which the changes to healthcare provision increased parents' anxiety levels, and feelings of not being supported. Five sub-themes, associated with the first wave of the pandemic, were identified: (1) rushed and/or fewer antenatal appointments, (2) lack of sympathy from healthcare workers, (3) lack of face-to-face appointments, (4) requirement to attend appointments without a partner, and (5) requirement to use PPE. A sentiment analysis, that used quantitative techniques, revealed participant responses to be predominantly negative (50.1%), with a smaller proportion of positive (21.8%) and neutral (28.1%) responses found. CONCLUSION: This study provides evidence indicating that the changes to healthcare services for pregnant women during the pandemic increased feelings of anxiety and have left women feeling inadequately supported. Our findings highlight the need for compensatory social and emotional support for new and expectant parents while COVID-19 related restrictions continue to impact on family life and society.
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