The impact of the COVID‐19 pandemic on the birth experiences of women attending a postnatal discussion service in the UK

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Parker‐Farthing, Claire 
Gillings, Daniella 
Aiken, Catherine E 

jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:secjats:titleIntroduction</jats:title>jats:pThe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) pandemic has had a significant impact on the perinatal mental health of women. The aim of this study is to understand the impact of the COVID‐19 pandemic on birth experiences of women attending postnatal discussions.</jats:p></jats:sec>jats:secjats:titleMethods</jats:title>jats:pRetrospective cohort of 434 women attending postnatal discussion appointments at a single obstetrics centre in Cambridge, UK. Data were extracted from electronic medical records. Pre‐COVID (January 2019–October 2019) and COVID (January 2021–October 2021) periods were designated.</jats:p></jats:sec>jats:secjats:titleResults</jats:title>jats:pThe percentage of women seeking postnatal discussion appointments was not different between the COVID 4.1% vs. 3.9% pre‐COVID period (relative risk [RR] = 1.06, 95% confidence interval [95% CI]: 0.88, 1.27), nor was the percentage of women reporting negative birth experiences during COVID 75% vs. 77% pre‐COVID (RR = 0.98, 95% CI: 0.88, 1.09). There was a higher rate of mental health issues antenatally during the COVID period 27.1% vs. 16.6% (RR = 1.63, 95% CI: 1.12, 2.37) in the pre‐COVID period, but not postnatally COVID 24.9% vs. 30.2% pre‐COVID (RR = 0.82, 95% CI: 0.61, 1.12). There was an increase in the number of women giving birth without their partner present during COVID 6.1% vs. 2.4% during pre‐COVID (RR = 2.51, 95% CI: 0.92, 6.85) and reduced birth‐related trauma rates reported by partners during COVID 4.8% vs. 11.7% pre‐COVID (RR = 0.41, 95% CI: 0.21, 0.82).</jats:p></jats:sec>jats:secjats:titleConclusion</jats:title>jats:pThere was no increase in the rate of women attending our service who reported negative birth experiences or postnatal mental health issues. However, there were important impacts of the pandemic on antenatal mental health and partner involvement. Our findings could help guide maintenance of safe and considerate maternity services under exceptional conditions.</jats:p></jats:sec>

3215 Reproductive Medicine, 4204 Midwifery, 32 Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, 42 Health Sciences, Mental Health, Pediatric, Reproductive health and childbirth, 3 Good Health and Well Being
Journal Title
Reproductive, Female and Child Health
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NIHR Cambridge Biomedical Research Centre (146281)