29 Jan 2021, 12:01 p.m.

From Monday 1 February, birth supporters will be offered rapid COVID-19 tests when they attend inpatient maternity services

From Monday 1 February, birth supporters who accompany mums-to-be will be offered rapid COVID-19 tests when they attend inpatient maternity services at Gloucestershire Hospitals. The move, which is aimed at combatting the spread of the virus, has been designed to allow birth supporters to have a greater degree of access to our maternity ward after their baby is born.

In December 2020, NHS England produced guidance to NHS providers on supporting pregnant women using maternity services during the pandemic. The guidance centred around ensuring that a birth supporter can accompany their partner throughout as much of their pregnancy, labour and birth as possible.

We have carefully considered the guidance and spent time considering how these recommendations could be implemented safely. Many of the changes we have made have been enabled by the provision of rapid testing for birth supporters.

As well as for partners visiting the maternity ward either antenatally or postnatally, the test will also be given to birth supporters who attend with their partners for Caesarean sections and those who have their labour induced on the ward before they go to the delivery suite to have their baby. Mums are already tested and these new rapid tests (lateral flow tests) will be offered to all birth supporters when they attend the ward. The results are available within 30 minutes.

Head of Midwifery Vivien Mortimore said: “While appreciating the pivotal role that partners and birth supporters play during pregnancy, we have to do everything we can to keep our mums, babies and colleagues safe. With cases of COVID-19 being widespread in the community, we’re asking birth supporters to help us by taking the test to make sure they are free from the virus.

“We are delighted that this rapid testing will allow us to give birth supporters greater access to our maternity ward, whether this is to support their partner who is having an induction of labour, planned caesarean section or visiting the ward once their baby is born. Many families go home very soon after their baby is born, but for those who stay a little longer, the rapid test provides the opportunity for families to spend additional time together which we are sure will be much appreciated.”

Find full details about the changes to our maternity service and the new rapid testing during COVID-19.

Birth Supporters are one person from either the same household or support bubble who has been nominated to attend throughout the birth journey. In special circumstances, a healthcare or support professional involved in their care may also accompany someone in labour.