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How Midwives Are Staying Safe & Dedicated During Covid-19

This article was produced in partnership with NHS England’s ‘Help Us Help You’ campaign.

If you are pregnant, it is crucial that you still attend your antenatal appointments and continue to seek advice from your midwife or maternity team to ensure you have a safe and healthy pregnancy. The NHS has launched a new campaign called ‘Help Us, Help You’ to make it clear that they’re open and here to see you safely.

NHS workers have been on the frontline throughout the ongoing coronavirus pandemic this year and midwives have been no exception, providing care and support for pregnant women who are at risk or unwell at this testing time.

Midwives have worked hard to make sure pregnant women still have a personal and safe maternity experience, but some services have had to adapt, such as having telephone or video consultations or carrying out antenatal appointments in a different setting. The NHS has produced this animation to explain how services might be different.

My ultimate desire or passion is to ensure the women receive the care they deserve.

We interviewed three midwives who’ve been working around the clock, lending their efforts to vulnerable women and their communities, to find out how they’ve been coping during the pandemic.

Jadesola Oginni is a band 6 NHS midwife at a South West London hospital. Having just turned 26, Jadesola has worked in the NHS for four years and specialises in diabetes in pregnancy.

Memuna Sowe is a matron for service to the vulnerable and marginalised, including the homeless population. Memuna has worked as a community midwife for 16 years and holds a huge passion for complexity working for Croydon Health Services NHS.

Phinah Agbakoba is a professional midwifery advocate (PMA) at Croydon Health Services, delivering new models of clinical supervision within maternity called Advocating and Educating Midwives for Quality Improvement. Since she started nursing in 2008, Phinah has worked as a PMA for six years administering midwives to provide safe quality care to women and their babies.

What’s a regular working day like as a midwife during the pandemic?

Jadesola: In the clinic, it consists of wiping down the desk, wearing a mask, calls, walk-ins, seeing walk-ins. In the labour ward, it’s scrubs on and wear a mask, spending twelve hours providing care for patients and family. You sometimes have two patients to be looking after, it depends on the history.

Memuna: No day is the same and when we go into work, we don’t expect it to be. Due to the vulnerability of patients, it is very busy and varied. There is also a huge amount of support on-hand from colleagues.

Phinah: It’s varied depending on the activity going on in the ward. In the pandemic, I find myself working more on the clinic to support my colleagues not only in regards to quality improvement, professional devotement and corporate resolution, but I’m also more clinically involved.

What do you love most about your job?

Jadesola: I love the diversity of it – I see women from all walks of life. So, one minute I’m looking after a woman who’s on her seventh child then the next I’m providing care for a primary school teacher, so the conversations are always full of laughter and tips – just genuine conversations. I also love the impact I have over other people’s lives, so years after deliveries I still get messages from women who still remember my name so it’s quite beautiful in that respect.

Memuna: Helping be a voice for the less-heard voices of the community. To make sure everyone is receiving the same care as the normal population. It’s the feeling every day that you’ve helped someone. I also enjoyed coming into work since the beginning of the pandemic because I was still carrying on as the world had stopped so the state of the world moves on faster – and the traffic is better!

Phinah: Being there for the women. In my new role this might look different because I’m supporting a lot of my colleagues to be there for the women, so empowering them with guidance. My ultimate desire or passion is to ensure the women receive the care they deserve and that they have the best experience during their delivery, that they remember it for the rest of their life as a positive experience.

How has the NHS adapted its maternity wards and units (pre/postnatal care) for the pandemic?

Phinah: A lot around visiting times which has been difficult for the women as they usually have birth partners stay with the women in labour and postnatally but because of the restrictions and trying to reduce contact, we’ve had to reduce visiting times and support the women. But we’ve found that the women have become more independent, because they would usually depend on the birth partners when they are there, but now we see them go home much quicker and they see that they can do this and are empowered to do this themselves, so they recover much more quickly. They are also understanding that we need to do this to keep them safe and keep the staff safe. Some staff have had their roles change and people work from home so we’ve had to adapt with virtual platforms and virtual drop-in sessions.

How have these changes affected you as a midwife?

Jadesola: Less patient contact hasn’t always been easy – this is a hands-on profession, so we’re used to close contact, holding patients’ hands in labour, taking blood and just being there and talking to the lady and her family. However, we still incorporate this but sometimes done amid PPE with a mask on so you have to find other ways just to show you’re being caring and compassionate.

Memuna: I think building resilience is key. We must broaden and highlight complex cases, webinars are now included so there is an online platform and the important thing is to highlight health inequalities as there is a huge learning curve occurring.

Phinah: Now I see this is the real moment of why we are here. This is the official international year of nurses and midwives and what a year. It feels like this is what it is about, the real calling of almost giving our lives for others. It has brought the realness of the risk we take every day when we come to work and look after other people and put our lives at risk.

We are now enabling partners to come in again but this is done safely.

How have these changes affected patients? Are services still accessible to patients?

Jadesola: Yes, services are always going to be accessible to patients, especially with the NHS, we never turn anybody away. However, many patients are being cared for virtually and for those who are not able to communicate properly for one reason or the other, it can be problematic. So we have to find other ways to find the best care for these women. Mental health concern has increased – women are anxious as they don’t know what to expect or what’s happening next. So, if women come in with pre-existing mental health concerns, telling them to stay at home can increase this and what we don’t want is mental health concerns once they’ve had a baby or during their pregnancy. We always ask them to reach out and speak to their midwives if they have any concerns, and we always constantly ask about their mental states in every physical and over the phone appointment.

Memuna: The use of online platforms means services are still accessible and patients can be seen more.

Phinah: We are now enabling partners to come in again but this is done safely. We assess them for any risks of Covid symptoms and ensure they are wearing the right PPE themselves before they have contact with people in the hospital.

Has the amount of patients/work increased, decreased or stayed just about the same during the pandemic? And is there a reason for this?

Jadesola: Work has increased, we’re now having to facilitate the same number of patients or even more but in smaller groups. So, as a diabetic midwife, I must prepare antenatal classes discussing diets and what diabetes is in pregnancy. Prior to Covid, we had women in groups of 15-20 along with their birthing partners and often children, and now we’ve had to cut that down into smaller groups but with even more patients.

Memuna: My personal workload has decreased because of less asylum-seekers to see to but this doesn’t mean that less people are pregnant. We won’t see the real effect until next year between March and April.

Phinah: It’s increased with the intensity – it’s not just women having babies anymore, some of them are also unwell because they have Covid so it feels more intense with Covid patients and not only supporting women through the natural transition of having their baby.


How do you cope with the demands of midwifery in the NHS now? And what keeps you dedicated to your work at this time?

Jadesola: Family and friends’ support is so vital in this profession and at this time. Having a catch up with a few friends over the telephone, coming home to my immediate family always helps and my faith also plays a big part in helping me cope with the demands. I’m just grateful to be able to be in a profession where I can change the lives of people for the better. Seeing a family go home happy or fulfilled with the care they received from me or my team keeps me dedicated. Plus, having amazing work colleagues during your long shifts. We’ve had a few wellness days where we’ve got free massages, free coffee – especially during the height of Covid when particular companies brought us free food which was amazing as we were working non-stop and didn’t have time to go to the shop.

Memuna: Family keeps me the most grounded. Showing my young daughters that you must keep going and to present these positive changes. Then there is a strong network and work support for us too.

Phinah: Having a supporting network of colleagues and a good work culture is important as you can’t do it alone – we all need a shoulder to cry on, someone to share what you are going through and to get some advice and guidance from. Having a wonderful team in Croydon to work with is valuable for me to have that social network because we’ve all stood together to tackle the issues rising as they go on. Also, I love what I do, I love the NHS and believe in our vision and purpose so it makes things a little easier. I want to contribute and be part of the bigger picture, it’s not just about my role, I feel privileged to be part of this and this helps me be resilient and positive – people say they always see me smiling around work.

Do you think Covid will change the way services are run in the future?

Jadesola: I think there’ll be an increase in innovation within the health sector – Covid will allow us to expand our minds to create new ideas and innovations that will help patient care whether it be virtually or face to face. 

Memuna: Modern technology will have the most impact. Instagram, Twitter, social media is good for passing information. On the negative impact, there will be a communication barrier. We can’t see a whole room or sense feelings through videos – we need to see feelings when giving care. When patients come in to see us and away from home, they open up more because they are coming away from the problem.

Phinah: We’ve learnt a lot and are still learning through the experiences we have been through. I think the virtual platform will stay with us because there is a lot of advantage – we save time sorting out meetings, the venue, we see more attendance in meetings because people can be ‘seated’ anywhere, it’s quicker to log in as it’s convenient for them. Also, strengthening infection control and measures including septic technique have been highlighted in how important they are in infection prevention. And for me, the work culture and kindness has been a key thing, to be compassionate with each other and be self-compassionate as NHS nurses and midwives. 

All guidance is correct at the time of publishing but contact your maternity team for more information on what is happening in your area.

If left untreated, mental health issues can have significant and long-lasting effects on the woman, the child, and the wider family. The NHS offers specialist perinatal mental health services which provide care and treatment for women with complex mental health needs and support the developing relationship between parent and baby. They also offer women with mental health needs advice for planning a pregnancy. Speak to your GP or midwife if you need help with your mental health.

For more information visit the NHS’s information page on Mental Health Problems and Pregnancy.

If you have any other questions about what to expect during pregnancy and birth throughout the pandemic, take a look at the NHS’s information page on Pregnancy and Coronavirus.