Understanding women’s experiences of having a baby during the pandemic

Research Nurse/Midwife Rebecca Hyde
2 November 2023 |

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on women’s experiences of maternity care, according to a survey of women who gave birth at the Women’s during September and October 2020.

The Women’s experiences of maternity care in a pandemic (WREN study) involved nearly 500 women who shared their experiences of pregnancy care, labour and birth care, postnatal care, changes to visitor access, and the impact of COVID-19.

Lead Researcher Rebecca Hyde, a Research Nurse/Midwife at the Women’s, said most of the women had at least some pregnancy care via telehealth, with 84 per cent having some care via telephone and 6 per cent via video. Physical screening tests were reduced when telehealth was used.

Women’s rating of care across pregnancy, labour and birth and the early postnatal period was lower than in previous evaluations, while visitor restrictions had a negative impact on the women’s experiences across all areas.

“Maternity care changed significantly and at a rapid pace during the COVID-19 pandemic and these changes, as well as the uncertainty of the pandemic, impacted women’s experiences of care in so many ways,” Ms Hyde said.

“Changes such as telehealth have opened up opportunities for future care, but we need to use what we have learnt from the women, and further explore the implications of offering women some care via telehealth. This will help ensure that future care is positive for women, with the best clinical outcomes for women and their babies.”

The WREN study found that what was most important to women receiving maternity care was: connection (developing a connection with staff through face-to-face care); reassurance (having reassurance from physical checks); safety (feeling safer when having had the physical checks so things aren’t missed); convenience (less impact on their day with telehealth for travel and waiting times); and choice/flexibility (wanting to have the option for telehealth).

Interim results were fed back to the Women’s clinical teams, to help inform ongoing use of telehealth and other aspects of pregnancy care. The learnings were presented at the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand Conference 2022.