Ask the Midwife: Frequently Asked Questions!

**JUST A QUICK NOTE TO SAY THESE HAVE NOT BEEN UPDATED SINCE PUBLICATION BUT YOU CAN GET THE MOST UP TO DATE INFORMATION AT THE OUH WEBSITE FAQS HERE!**

Wow – we have been blown away by your amazing response to Wendy and her team’s awesome Ask the Midwife sessions.

In order to make sure you get the best information quickly and easily, we have compiled a list of the FAQ from these sessions below. You can also watch them back on YouTube or on Facebook. OUH also have an FAQ page for general enquiries here.

What appointments am I meant to have with my midwife now?

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This is a written summary of the Q&A sessions held in early April.  Questions submitted by Oxfordshire parents and answered by Wendy Randall, Consultant Midwife at the John Radcliffe


I am concerned about being a first time parent with no family around me and my partner having to leave after the birth.  

We are really sorry about the restrictions we’ve had to put in place on partners.  However we have to put measures in place to reduce the spread of this virus – to protect you and to protect our staff.  We want to ensure as safe a birth environment as possible.  

Please let us reassure you that we are not planning to rush partners out straight after birth.   

Partners will be asked to leave at the point you transfer from the birth environment (i.e. where you have given birth – your room in spires, wallingford, JR, etc.)   

My birth partner has a health condition which makes them vulnerable to the virus.  We are anxious about being exposed to the virus during labour at the hospital.  What is the best way of reducing the risk of exposure?

This is a very difficult decision for you and your partner to make.  It may not be the best idea for your partner to come with you to the hospital, and you may wish to have a different birth partner with you.  There is an option to set up FaceTime (or equivalent) with your partner so that they can support you remotely from home.  I’m afraid ultimately it is a decision you and your partner need to make yourselves.  All I can say is that we are doing everything we can to reduce the risks of infection to you and your partner.  I am really sorry it is a very difficult conversation to be having.  

Can partners stay if we are in a single private room with ensuite?

No, I’m afraid not, we are still asking partners to go home.  Again this is about reducing the flow of people coming through the hospital.  You’ll be meeting different midwives during the birth and postnatally, there’s also the housekeeping and other staff, this means new interactions which won’t already have been in contact with your partner during birth.  We have to keep this to a minimum in order to keep everyone safe.     

Are home births being cancelled?

No, we are really pleased to still be offering these in Oxfordshire.  We are however seeing an increase in requests for home births and we only have a set number of community midwifes on call at night.  Last night for example every single one of them were out attending home births, so it is getting busy. 

I want to have a Home Birth, but I have young children in the house.  I understand children won’t be allowed in the room, how can I manage this – can someone collect them? 

Again, this is about reducing the risk of exposure (both ways).  Someone needs to be responsible for your child, so this could either mean your partner looks after your children whilst the midwife cares for you, or someone else comes to look after them so that your partner can be in the room.   If you are happy for someone to come to collect them or look after them in another room then yes absolutely – but try to ensure they have also been self-isolating to reduce the risk of transfer to your children.  Home births will require more forward planning in this respect.  Though the same principle applies about having a childcare plan if you plan to give birth in any other setting. 

Are partners allowed for the whole duration of labour?  

The birth partner restrictions are set out on the OUH website, but essentially yes. The restriction is on just one birth partner for the labour and birth.  The same applies to planned caesarean section.  

If you are in early labour and are admitted to an antenatal ward because you don’t want to go back home then they wouldn’t be allowed to be with you then, they can return to be with you when in established labour  

Is the postnatal ward sufficiently staffed to be able to look after us if our partners aren’t present? 

Yes we absolutely are.  We are making sure we have a whole team of support on the postnatal ward, we are very lucky to have had additional help from our breastfeeding team and students too.  Everyone is pulling together to do their best to make this as positive and supportive an experience as possible for you.  We’ve also streamlined our discharge process and are managing to get people home quicker so we can concentrate on those who need us most. 

Will we need to wear masks and gloves? 

Only if you or anyone in your household have symptoms of Covid19.  When you call the hospital to go in for labour & birth you will be asked screening questions about this.  

Please note that our staff will be using protective equipment, I understand how this can look a bit daunting but is for everyone’s protection.  You can see pictures of what this will look like on the OMVP Facebook page.  

I would like to give birth in Wantage 

We are very sad to say that as of today (3-April) we have had to temporarily close Wantage midwifery led unit for births.  This is just for births. Antenatal and postnatal support continues there.  We have had to do this because of staffing levels there.  If these staffing levels improve then we can reopen but we will need to review this on a day to day basis.  We will be diverting mothers to Wallingford which is still available, and all of the other options are still available. 

Is the plan to keep the midwifery-led units open during this time?

Yes absolutely. Unfortunately we’ve had to temporarily close Wantage for births due to staffing issues in that team but this will be reviewed if levels improve, and all other units remain open.  

Will staffing the Spires be impacted?

No, we are still staffing Spires as normal. We always try to move staff around so we can best meet your birth choices. 

I’m really anxious about giving birth, is there anything you can recommend? 

There is a very strong Positive Birth Movement group in Oxfordshire, you may wish to check them out.  There are also various books, online resources and other groups out there who can help you with your anxieties and to see the positivity of birth.  

Is the 25 week GP appointment still happening? 

There are some changes happening to the antenatal pathway.  This will be published to our OUH website shortly.  I believe these will be changing.  We’ve had to minimise some face to face contact.  We are using midwives who are self-isolating, in some cases because they are pregnant themselves, to do antenatal appointments over the telephone. I can promise you we will still be making sure you and the baby are safe throughout the pregnancy. 

Can I elect for cesarean?

We are struggling with this option at the moment.  I suggest you talk to your midwife about this option. In Oxfordshire we only do caesareans for health reasons.  If the woman really wants to have a caesarean for other reasons then we have a pathway where we refer to Gloucester for this.  Unfortunately Gloucester have said they cannot support this pathway at this time due to the Covid19 situation. 

My scan is in a months’ time – is it likely my partner still won’t be able to come by then?

We are not over the peak of this yet, so yes I imagine we will still be in the same position by then.  Please continue to check the website for more information nearer the time in case this changes. 

Can I film the scan for my partner to see? 

I’m afraid not.  Our scan department has taken advice from their national professional body and have been told that neither live or recorded filming is allowed.  We are terribly sorry about this, I know scans are an exciting time for you and you want to have your partner present.  

Can I still have an ‘active birth’, making use of balls etc?

Yes absolutely, we encourage this.  We are lucky that we have wireless waterproof monitors in our units.  We have all sorts of equipment to support active birth in all of our wards, as well as water birth pools, particularly in our midwifery-led units.  I’d also recommend trying the various pilates and yoga online classes with special versions for pregnancy.    

Are hospital discharge processes being sped up to get people home faster after they are ready to go home after birth? 

Yes we absolutely are, there has been a lot of work to improve this, as we know it is something we’ve had criticism of in the past about being too slow.  

Will I be told to go home the same day after my planned cesarean? 

I promise we won’t make you go home the same day, you are not going to feel up to this.  We plan to get people home the following day.  We will also allow enough notice time for your partner to come to the hospital to collect you.  

I’ve been told I can’t give birth in the birthing pool, only use it in early stages, is this true?

We’ve made some changes to the waterbirth guidelines, but this mainly only applies to people who are symptomatic of Covid19.  

Information, evidence and advice surrounding Covid19 is changing all the time and we are having to adapt, and this can be confusing.  There have been some places which have cancelled water births because of evidence that Covid19 can be contained in faeces, which can come out during labour into the pool.  However we looked into the evidence around this, and talked to virologists, the conclusion being that as long as we practice good hand hygiene then the risk is very low.  Therefore we are continuing to offer water births.  This guidance and evidence is on the website and has been circulated to all midwives.  However, you might still be asked by some midwives to lift your abdomen out of the water for the midwife to hear the heartbeat, if so then please do respect that and do so, in order to reduce their risk of infection. 

Is there still support for breastfeeding in hospital? 

Our midwives and support workers are trained to baby friendly standards.  We won’t discharge you until you are feeling happy about how you are feeding the baby and have had at least a couple of good feeds.   

Are 36 week scans being cancelled? 

We are looking at all of our planned 36wk scans.  If they were just routine and low risk then yes these will be cancelled, but if they are for a clinical reason then the scan will still continue as planned.  You will be notified if a planned scan is to be cancelled. 

I am on pathway D for my scans, will they continue? 

Yes, these will continue.  We are only cancelling scans we don’t think are essential in the circumstances. 

Should I be completely self-isolating after 37wks / before birth or can I still go for a walk? 

You need to assess the risks of this, it will depend on individual circumstances.  It is important for mental health to be getting outside, getting fresh air and gentle exercise.  If we try to lock people in their homes then this will not be good for their mental health, which is also extremely important.  However we do advise you not to go to places like supermarkets or come within about 2 metres of other people.  So if you are living somewhere where you can get out for a walk safely then please continue to do so.  Take all precautions like not touching things like gates, instead use a tissue and throw away.  Always wash your hands when you get home and don’t touch your face.  If you live somewhere where you can’t walk safely, i.e. can’t pass other people at a safe distance, then you should stay at home. 

I’m worried about exposure when attending midwife appointments and scans, do I need to attend?  

We are doing everything we can to reduce the risk of you catching the virus.  You’ll be asked to wash your hands before coming in.  The midwife will be wearing a mask and using gloves.  All surfaces will have been wiped down before you come in with alcohol based wipes.  

We’ve reduced appointments to a minimum already, so those remaining face to face are those which we believe are very important to still attend for your pregnancy, so we can make sure you and your baby stay safe.  

Will birth partners be allowed into recovery? 

In our observation area we usually allow visiting time, but we’ve had to reduce this to about one hour after the birth.  So we are not going to chase partners home but we need to be aware these are four-bedded bays and we need to reduce contact to minimise risks and keep everyone safe. 

If induced, can we still walk around the hospital?

We have been making positive changes to the induction pathway, in conjunction with Oxfordshire Maternity Voices Partnerships to ensure these are advantageous to women.  Details of this will be released in the next few weeks when they go live. .  

How am I going to cope without partners after birth? 

We appreciate we won’t be as good as your birth partner but we will do everything we can to support you and your baby after birth.  We have a great team of people supporting women postnatally.  

What happens if I have a tear which requires surgery, will my partner be able to come with me? 

Yes, your partner will be able to come with you but will have to leave after the surgery. 

I have gestational diabetes, I’m worried this means I will need to stay in hospital longer? 

We will have to check the baby’s blood sugar.  Sometimes you will only need to stay a very short length of time, sometimes it will be overnight.  We understand people will be anxious about being without their partner, and we appreciate we will never be as good as having your partner there but we will do our absolute best to support you. 

Is Birth Afterthoughts still happening? 

This service will continue to be offered but will be via telephone consultation with the potential to meet Face to Face once restrictions are lifted. Please contact the Birth Afterthoughts team on 01865 220605 to arrange an appointment. 

What would happen if you have your baby, then your partner goes home, but later something happens that means you need to go into surgery, can they come back to look after the baby?

These are very, very rare circumstances.  Ultimately we would be there to look after the baby and we are very experienced in this, as you’d expect.  It is also quite common for babies to follow the mum back into surgery so that you can all stay together.  However if you needed extra care and support then allowing your partner back is something that we would consider.   

My partner is a key worker so is still going into work, is it ok for him to continue working up until I go into labour and will still be allowed to be present? 

Yes, as a keyworker your partner should be following good practice and wearing PPE, so they can continue to work up until you are in labour.  

Can someone meet me at the entrance of the hospital if my partner drops me off.  I’m worried I won’t be able to make it up to the Spires / ward without help. 

If you call MAU in advance to tell them you are coming and ask for this then someone will accompany you upstairs. 

Will screening tests like hearing tests still happen after birth? 

Due to the Government’s advice to protect the public at this time, we have to make some changes to the screening service offered.  We are temporarily cancelling our entire out of hospital outpatient screening clinics going forward. We will be in contact with you by phone or appointment letter to arrange a further appointment for screening your baby at your nearest hospital site.

A hearing screen is routinely offered for all newborn babies born in Oxfordshire. During your antenatal care your midwife gave you a “Screening tests for you and your baby” booklet, please refer to the hearing loss page for information about hearing screening.  If your baby doesn’t receive Newborn Hearing screening at this time please refer to the Checklist pages in the Red Child Health book (pages 25-26). If you have serious concerns that you baby can’t hear at all, then please contact the Paediatric Audiology Department, Tel: 01865 234445, Email: orh-tr.paediatric.audiology@nhs.net, website: www.ouh.nhs.uk/kidshearing

We will be following Government advice and we may have to cancel appointments at very short notice. We will do this via all available phone numbers that we have for your family. 

Will any discretion be applied to partners staying longer in the event of a particularly traumatic labour or if the baby is admitted to special care?

Wherever you birth, we encourage partners to stay for the labour and birth.  When you transfer to the postnatal ward or recovery room, your partner will be asked to leave.  If you have complications then you are likely to stay in the birthing area for longer in which case your partner would stay with you for that time, it is the point of transfer where your partner will be asked to leave. 

Will me and my partner be tested for Covid19 on arrival at the hospital even if we have no symptoms? Do I need to leave earlier than normal to be tested? 

No, we will only test people who have Covid19 symptoms.  As you will have been self-isolating in the weeks before birth the risks will be low.  You do not need to arrive earlier – the best place for early labour is at home where you will be more comfortable. 

I am concerned about being left alone during induction, without my partner. 

We’ve been working with OMVP on a new induction pathway, which will reduce the amount of time you need to be in the hospital and will maximise the amount of time your partner can be with you to support you.  During these Covid19 times, when you are admitted for induction we ask that your partner drops you off, you will be in a small four-bedded bay, a midwife will be there to look after you, to talk you through everything and answer any questions.  When you are ready to go to the birthing suite your partner will be able to join you there.  

If my partner brings me for induction, should they wait in the car (until I’m ready to give birth) or go home? 

If this is your first baby (or even second or third) and you are going to the ‘induction of labour bay’, on level 6, then they should go home – it’ll usually take at least 6 hours for you to be ready to give birth.  If this is your fourth+ baby, you are likely to go straight to the delivery suite, in which case your partner will go with you.  

If I have a longer stay on the postnatal ward and I run out of supplies can my partner/someone drop off things for me.  

Yes absolutely, we are trying to keep visits to a minimum but we can make arrangements for supplies to be dropped off to you if you run out of important things you need.   

Will the Ambulance service be too stretched to respond to transfers to hospital from birthing centres (e.g. Cotswold Birthing Centre)? 

We are working very closely with the Ambulance service and currently we feel confident they can cope with transfers if needed. 

If I need to transfer from a midwifery led unit to the JR after birth (e.g. for surgery) will my baby come with me? 

Yes generally the principle is that the mum and baby travel together. 

If I need to transfer from a midwifery led unit to the JR will my partner come with me? 

If you are transferring postnatally, to stay on the postnatal ward, then unfortunately partners won’t be able to come with you.  However if you need to transfer to the hospital during labour, before birth, then your partner will come with you, so they can continue to support you during labour and birth.  

If I plan to give birth in Spires but then decide I want to have an epidural in JR would I then stay downstairs and would my partner come with me? 

You would go downstairs for the epidural, with your partner, and stay downstairs for the birth.  After birth we would hope for you to return to the Spires for recovery.  If however you needed surgery then you would go to Level 5 of the JR for recovery.  Your partner would need to leave at that point of transfer (back to Spires or to Level 5). 

If I am feeling well enough to do so, can I be discharged home straight after birth, before transfer to postnatal, so I can go home with my partner and they don’t have to leave? 

Yes absolutely, we want you to be able to get home as soon as possible, as long as you are safe and comfortable to do so.  Make sure you have the baby’s car seat with you.  

Can I see a virtual tour of the Spires or other units? 

There are films and images of all our birthing options on the OUH maternity website. 

Can I still have a doula at my home birth?

We need to limit the number of birth partners to one, to reduce the risk of spreading the infection and keep everyone safe.  If your doula is your chosen birth partner, please make sure you have the reassurance that your doula has been self-isolating for two weeks prior to your birth.  If they are not your chosen birth partner but you want to have their support in addition, you may wish to consider having the doula present virtually to provide support via FaceTime or equivalent.  

With antenatal classes having been cancelled, is there or will there be any virtual/online classes?

Yes we are planning to deliver something virtual along these lines – please watch this space, it will be communicated through the OMVP Facebook page within the next week.  

Will there be a reduction in epidural cover for maternity? 

We have on call consultants for maternity and we are doing everything we can to maintain a normal service at present. 

When will my partner be able to join me for planned caesarean?

Your partner will come in with you on the day of your caesarean section and you will be contacted by the anaesthetic team to arrange what will happen in terms of your pre-op appointments. 

Will my face to face midwife appointments continue at GP surgeries? 

This differs depending on surgery.  Some GP surgeries are closed, some we cannot use anymore and have had to find alternative venues, some we are continuing to use as normal.  Your midwife will contact you if you need to meet in a different place, otherwise assume it is the normal location.  

If the baby goes into neonatal / special care after birth, will both parents still be able to visit? 

Visiting will be reduced to one parent at a time, during which the other parent would be off site (the 2nd parent can’t wait in the waiting area).  Unfortunately other members of the family and siblings can no longer visit the unit.

In the case of twins on the unit, one parent can sit with one twin and the other parent can sit with the 2nd twin but we ask for them not to sit together or swap babies during the time they are on the unit.

The neonatal unit have put in place some other virtual ways for families to share the progress of their baby(ies) and minimise any distress the reduced visiting measures may have on the family.

How long do I need to self-isolate prior to induction and planned caesarean?  

We are recommending at least one week of self-isolation prior to induction and planned caesarean. 

Do you think restrictions will be lifted by May? 

Obviously this is all very hard to predict, but it is likely that restrictions will continue into June.

Me and my partner don’t drive / don’t have a car, is it ok for my parent to drive me to the hospital?

Yes, that is ok, just please make sure they are self-isolating for at least a week beforehand. 

Will someone help me with bags and baby when discharged to get out the hospital and to my partner collecting me?

Yes absolutely, we are doing this currently.  If you are planning to be discharged same day then take the car seat with you.  If you are likely to be discharged next day, then keep car seat in the car, when discharged the baby can be taken downstairs in the cot and transferred into the car seat.  

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