This week’s list comes from Rebecca Trueman who is an antenatal and hypnobirthing teacher, and it’s full of suggestions about what you can do to make your birth go a little smoother. 

With This Is Going To Hurt currently on TV it seemed like a good time to reflect on just how overstretched and understaffed maternity services are. As Rebecca says, it’s easy to focus on the bad bits and the worry, and so her list offers some useful advice for planning a birth during a pandemic – and beyond. 


  • It’s been nearly TWO YEARS since the pandemic shut the UK down. I had to double-check that when I wrote it: TWO YEARS!

  • As an antenatal and hypnobirthing teacher, I’ve had the privilege of spending much of that time supporting families prepare for giving birth to their babies.

  • It’s the best job I’ve ever had. In fact, I’m not sure I can call it a job really: it’s a hobby and a passion too. It’s been a real emotional rollercoaster during Covid.

  • The impact of the pandemic on expectant parents and on maternity services has been – and still is – huge.  I see this every day with the families I support.

  • A few heartbreaking messages I’ve received from families during the pandemic:

  • ‘I had to wait alone in hospital confinement for a scan for 4 hours. I had no idea what was going on.’

  • ‘I’m in the first stages of induction and having really strong contractions. I just really need [my husband] but he’s not allowed to be here until I’m in established labour. I feel really stressed without him here.’

  • ‘After all that planning for my homebirth, when we rang up the homebirth team they said there was no midwife to send and I’d have to go into hospital.’

  • ‘After my last birth which was so traumatic, I need to have my doula and my husband with me [in the birth centre] at my birth, but I’m only allowed one person with me.’

  • ‘An hour after birth [my partner] was asked to leave as I was going to the postnatal ward. I was left on my own, sore, with a new baby and feeling pretty shellshocked to be honest.’

  • Let’s face it, maternity services were already under strain before the pandemic.

  • Families are trying to plan their birth in the context of overstretched and understaffed maternity services while navigating (sometimes illogical) covid protocols.

  • Birthing people are having to attend scans and appointments alone. This has often included where scans are performed due to concerns of miscarriage. Birthing people have received world-shattering news at scans and appointments that they’ve had to attend completely on their own.

  • It’s no wonder that birth trauma rates are rising.

  • (I could write thousands of words lamenting how our government and health executives have dealt with maternity services during the pandemic, but this isn’t the purpose of this list.)

  • I know it’s easy to focus only on the bad news. To let worry take over. Or to stick our heads in the sand and just hope for the bloody best. After all, birth’s just one day (if you’re lucky), isn’t it?

  • Here’s hoping the government pulls a big finger out and creates a properly-funded, parent-centred maternity service. Here’s hoping this pandemic f**ks right off.

  • Until that time, I want to share with you what you can do to make planning your birth in a pandemic a little smoother.

  • If you do have to attend any antenatal appointments or scans alone, remember you can have a partner, friend or doula on the phone or video call. That way, they can ask questions, be part of the discussion and support you through it.

  • As an aside, if you don’t know what a doula is, they are absolutely kick-ass birth support. Statistically having a doula reduces the chances of all kinds of intervention (I’m not biased because I’m not a doula; I just see how valuable their work is)!

  • Have you decided where you want to give birth? It’s worth asking your midwife a few questions such as:

  • How many birth partners can I have with me during birth?

  • When will my birth partner have to leave after birth?

  • How often can my birth partner visit us in hospital?

  • How many times has the birth centre (midwife-led unit) closed in the past few months? How likely is this to happen?

  • Is the homebirth team operational? How many times has it had to withdraw the service over the past few months?

  • Finding out the answers to all of the above helps you sets your expectations. I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better when I have more of an idea what I’m working with!

  • I worked with a family; let’s call them the Jacksons. They dreamed of homebirthing their second baby BUT they also knew that their local homebirth team had been unable to send a midwife on a number of occasions in the past few months. They planned for a homebirth but it also felt right to them to make contingency plans if on the day they were told no-one could attend them. And that’s exactly what happened!

  • You cannot plan for every eventuality in birth, but having a contingency plan in some circumstances can make you feel calmer and more prepared.

  • So what else will help you feel more confident about giving birth during a pandemic?

  • Good antenatal preparation. Now, there are loads of providers out there and it can be hard to choose. Check what your antenatal course covers: you want it to cover birth fully or else you won’t be fully prepared! Working with a real-live teacher who provides support outside the class is a winner too.

  • Knowing what to expect during birth and how to stack the odds in your favour of having the birth you want is well worth the investment.

  • Plan your support – for birth and after birth too. If you’re birthing at home then you can have more than one birth partner with you. Hell, you could have your whole family if you wanted to (most people definitely don’t want that!).

  • If you’re birthing outside the home and your hospital trust only allows one birth partner, you can have virtual doula support during your birth through phone or video (you usually need to book this well in advance).

  • Does your birth partner know how to support you during birth? Birth preparation is SO important for them too. An informed, confident and prepared birth partner makes such a difference to birth. You deserve that support, so ask them how they’re feeling about it!

  • It’s worth adding a few things to your birth or hospital bag just in case you do end up with a postnatal stay in hospital.

  • Postnatal wards are… tough. It can be very reassuring having midwives around to help you but you’re also surrounded by other new parents who also have no clue what’s going on. And crying babies. Usually lots of crying babies.

  • I recommend taking a good eyemask (because it’s never dark on postnatal wards). Take some nice moisturiser and lipbalm (hospital sheets are scratchy and the air is dry). Pack a nice blanket and maybe your own pillow.  Oh, and lots and lots of snacks. You’ll be starving.

  • A postnatal stay is never fun, but some of those home comforts can make it slightly more bearable.

  • Birth (in all forms) is a tremendous physical, mental and emotional challenge. And then when it’s finished… you realise you have a new human being to look after! That, and you’re figuring yourself out as a parent without any transition period. It’s like leaving Kansas and ending up in Oz. Only you’re tired, and often a bit sore, and there are no magic shoes to take you back!

  • Planning your support for after birth is so very, very important. In our culture we’re not great at asking for help.

  • Many cultures prioritise rest and bonding in the immediate postnatal period.

  • Some South American cultures have ‘la cuarentena’. Yep, quarantine! But a nicer version than the ones we’ve been experiencing recently because people make you food and help around the house.

  • Never, ever feel guilty if all you want to do in those first weeks (or months) is lie in your bed with your baby. There are so many physical and emotional health benefits to that.

  • If you want to have visitors at some point, ask them to bring a meal, or clean a room of your house, or take a load of washing. People generally really want to help; if they don’t, do you really want them visiting you at this precious time?

  • Postnatal doulas are a wonderful support if you have the means. They provide emotional and practical support in those first weeks and months. They can help you with feeding and caring for a newborn. They are there for you to talk about your birth, make sure you eat, and help you get some rest.

  • I had a postnatal doula after birth. We booked one because we didn’t have any family nearby to help us. I soon realised that this support was so much more than a family member could give. I found becoming a parent so overwhelming, and I will always be so thankful for my postnatal doula.

  • Other ways you can plan for the postnatal period now? Batch cook your meals and put portions in the freezer. Ask for meal memberships/vouchers as gifts instead of all the baby crap you’ve already got and probably don’t need. It’s astounding how much time caring for a newborn takes. You don’t have much time to cook and you need good nutrition after birth.

  • It’s all about the preparation, isn’t it? For birth and for your postnatal period. It really does make such a difference.

  • I started with some difficult messages I’ve received from families during the pandemic.  Shall I finish with some wonderful ones?

  • ‘The midwife-led unit said I could have two birth partners with me. I feel so ready for this baby now – ready to go!’ (From an expectant mum who’d had a difficult first birth.)

  • ‘I got the birth I hoped for – calm, safe, at home, in the water, only a tiny tear that will heal on its own’.

  • ‘So after all my fears, I went into labour naturally at 41 + 4 and gave birth at home in the pool!

  • ‘We birthed her out! Midwife even said I’m in her top 5 fave births and she’s been doing it for 20 years.’

  • ‘Birth was manageable and purposeful, instead of being traumatic and out of control.’

  • ‘Birth didn’t go to plan, but I felt calm and in control the whole time. I knew that it was me calling the shots.’

  • ‘We’re on cloud nine! We did it our way! The best day of my life without a doubt!’

** Rebecca is an antenatal and hypnobirthing instructor. Her website is:




Doula UK:



–  READ Having a Baby in a Pandemic by Samantha Owens who articulates so well what it was like to not just have a baby, but have her first baby during a pandemic. 

–  READ Leah Hazard’s list Why I Became A Midwife which is all about her decision to work on the front line of maternity services. 

–  READ my two lists about all three of my children’s birth stories: A Tale of Two Very Different Births and Greta’s Birth Story. They differed hugely and went from terrifying to healing and empowering. 

–  LISTEN to hypnobirthing teacher, Hollie de Cruz, on Honestly podcast as she speaks about Birth and how labour isn’t something we can plan or control, but it can be transformative.



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** ‘But why don’t I feel happy all the time?’ ‘But why do people die and are they just sleeping?’ and “But why do adults drink beer and what does it do?’ are some of the tricky questions I tackle in my debut book BUT WHY? which is available to order now  and also on audiobook.**

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