The pandemic changed lives for people all over the world. It has placed pressure on our services, put a halt to 'normal' life and kept us away from our loved ones when we need them the most.
But imagine finding out amidst all of this that you're about to experience the biggest change to your life yet - the arrival of a new baby.
We talked to Arti about how she feels and her experiences of the NHS during a time of already heightened anxiety so that we can help services to improve the care people receive, now and in the future.
Finding out I was pregnant
"I first found out that I was pregnant in March, just when lockdown started. It was really hard to get hold of a pregnancy test as lots of shops and pharmacies had big queues with people panic buying. When I found out I was pregnant I was really shocked and anxious - how do you cope with this change along with everything else that's going on?
"I phoned a few friends and spoke to mum and calmed down after a while though."
What do I do?
"With this being my first child I had no idea what to do. As with everything else - Google was the answer! I contacted the hospital of my choice to let them know I was pregnant and asked them what I had to do next.
"I was told to fill in an online form for a midwife appointment which could take weeks. I asked if I needed to go to a GP, I wasn't registered so wondered if this was a problem, but the hospital advised that it's not required so I didn't go."
Tell us your experiences #BecauseWeAllCare
NHS staff are doing everything they can to support people through this pandemic, but services can't improve unless we tell them how.
Do you have an experience of maternity services, or any other type of care, that can help us understand the impact of COVID-19 and the care people receive? No matter how big or how small, we want to hear how you think services can improve in our short, confidential survey.
My first hospital appointment
"I went for my first scan in June and was extremely nervous about going. This was made even worse by the fact that my husband couldn't come with me due to rules put in place to try to limit the spread of the virus
"I was aware that there would be a lot of changes to the hospital due to COVID-19 so I didn't know what to expect - I just wanted my baby to be okay.
"When I got there though I saw how quiet it was and the staff were so friendly - it made me feel much better, but I do still think that the NHS could do more to support people that are having a baby. I was able to take my husband to a private scan, we both had masks on, we both kept our distance from people and he sat away from me when I had the scan itself. I think the NHS should consider this, especially for first time parents and for people who have severe anxiety."
What happens next?
"My due date is in December and I'm not really sure what happens next. All I know is that I have a few scans booked and a few midwife appointments. The NHS staff have all been so nice and said that I can ask them any questions that I might have at any time - but what am I supposed to be asking? I don't know what it is I know or don't know.
"I had a text from my midwife saying that my thyroid is really high, which means I'm going to be under consultant care. They should have noticed this sooner, and I should have been on tablets from before I went through the whole first trimester. I'm feeling really stressed and upset now because I read that this could affect my baby's development. I just wonder whether the hospital would have realised this at the beginning if my care wasn't disrupted by the pandemic.
"I do hope my husband can come to the 20 week scan, and to my antenatal appointments. I would also be so grateful to have some reassurance around giving birth during a potential second wave."
Improving maternity services during COVID-19
Arti told us her top three recommendations to services to help support new mums and dads during the pandemic.
- Provide advice and information to new mums and dads based on what others have asked rather than just keeping the door open - it's hard to know what to say.
- Consider ways that a partner can be there to support the new mum during the pandemic, particularly when they already feel anxious.
- Offer advice as to what might happen to birthing plans should there be a 'second wave' of coronavirus.
Have a look at our Maternity Project
Healthwatch set up 15 focus groups with mothers and birthing partners and spoke to 96 people across the Frimley Integrated Care System area. Most had given birth at Frimley Park Hospital (63) or Wexham Park Hospital (28). The report has key findings, recommendations and the response from the Local Maternity System.