Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

Long term impact of visiting restrictions “could be catastrophic” MPs, academics and campaigners warn NHS England CEO…

This weekend, the letter below, drafted by Birthrights and Pregnant then Screwed and signed by over 100 MPs, academics, charities and campaigners, was sent to Simon Stevens (Chief Executive of NHS England and Improvement). The letter and the survey it refers to were covered in the Mail on Sunday.

Dear Simon Stevens (the Chief Executive of the NHS),

We are writing to you as a group of academics, healthcare professionals, politicians, charities and campaigners and MPs to ask that the NHS recognises pregnancy and birth as one of life’s most significant events and not an illness or medical procedure. We ask that you consider the evidence which shows that women have fewer complications during childbirth if they have a trusted partner with them, and we ask that you take into consideration the increased levels of stress and anxiety amongst pregnant women who are forced to go through other parts of their maternity journey without a trusted companion.

A recent survey of 15,000 pregnant women and new mothers by the charity and campaign group, Pregnant Then Screwed found that 90% of pregnant women say hospital restrictions are having a negative impact on their mental health, with 97% saying that the restrictions have increased their anxiety around childbirth. Worryingly, of the women who gave birth in a hospital which prevented partners attending until they were in established labour, 17.4% said they felt forced to have a vaginal examination and 82% cited that this felt like a requirement so that they could be reunited with their partner. This is a breach of women’s human rights when they are at their most vulnerable. The long term impact of these restrictions for new mothers and their family could be catastrophic. 

We firmly believe that no-one should have to hear that their baby’s heart has stopped beating without their partner’s hand to hold. No one should be induced while their partner sleeps in a bike shed in the car park for days on end. No one should be left to look after a newborn baby whilst recovering from major abdominal surgery.

In addition to ensuring the 15 minute rapid COVID-19 tests are swiftly rolled out in maternity settings, we ask that you direct Trusts in England to treat maternity as a special case where women have the right to be supported and partners have a right to be present during each step of their maternity journey. Coronavirus has stolen so many precious moments from so many people. It doesn’t have to be this way in maternity services. Where other precautions are in place there is little evidence that partners increase the infection risk to staff or other service users. Please ensure that parents-to-be can have the birth they deserve even during the pandemic.

Yours sincerely,


Pregnant Then Screwed 

Birth Trauma Association

The Fatherhood Institute

The BirthBliss Academy


Make Birth Better

British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS)

Association of Radical Midwives (ARM)


Holly Avis, author of change.org petition on visitor restrictions

Birth Companions 

Alicia Kearns MP for Rutland and Melton

Alex Stafford MP for Rother Valley

Andrea Leadsom MP for South Northamptonshire

Catherine McKinnell MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North

Stella Creasy MP for Walthamstow 

Miriam Cates MP for Penistone and Stocksbridge

James Daly MP for Bury North

Sara Britcliffe MP for Hyndburn

Saqib Bhatti MP for Meriden

Ben Everitt MP for Milton Keynes

Aaron Bell MP for for Newcastle-under-Lyme

Dr Neil Hudson MP for for Penrith and The Border

Dr Caroline Johnson MP 

Siobhan Baille MP

Maria Miller MP

Ruth Edwards MP 

Jonathan Gullis MP 

Jerome Mayhew MP for Broadland

Felicity Buchan MP for Kensington

Angela Richardson MP for Guildford

Dr Kieran Mullen MP for Crewe and Nantwich

Jacob Young MP for Redcar

Simon Fell MP for Barrow & Furness

David Johnston MP for Wantage

Brendan Clarke-Smith MP for Bassetlaw

Gareth Bacon MP for Opington

Dean Russell MP for Watford

Rob Roberts MP for Delyn

Greg Smith MP for Buckingham

Peter Gibson MP for Darlington

Eliot Colburn MP for Carshalton and Wallington

Robin Millar MP for Aberconwy

Matthew Vickers MP for Stockton South

Chris Wakeford MP for Bury South 

Fay Jones MP for Brecon and Radnorshire

Ester McVey MP

Professor Gill Thomson, Professor in Perinatal Health, University of Central Lancashire

Dr Mari Greenfield, Post-doctoral Fellow (perinatal mental health), King’s College, London

Soo Downe, Professor of Midwifery Studies, UCLan

Dr Phoebe Pallotti, Associate Professor of Midwifery, University of  Nottingham

Dr Claire Feeley, Researcher/Midwife, University of Central Lancashire

Dr. Julie Roberts, Senior Research Fellow, University of Nottingham

Dr. Camilla Pickles, Assistant Professor of Biolaw, University of Durham

Dr. Benjamin Black, Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, The Whittington Hospital, London

Anna Nelson, PhD Candidate (Bioethics & Medical Jurisprudence), University of Manchester 


Dr Elizabeth Chloe Romanis, Assistant Professor of Biolaw, University of Durham

Dr Sebastian Walsh. Public Health Registrar, East of England.

Rebecca Best, Senior Midwife during the first peak, current Public Health Registrar, East of England

Sheena Byrom OBE Midwife Consultant, Director All4Maternity  

Dr Kylie Baldwin, Centre for Reproduction Research, De Montfort University 

Mary Newburn, Service User Researcher

Rebecca Blaylock, Research and Engagement Lead, WRISK and BPAS

Dr Vicky Fallon, Lecturer in Perinatal Psychology, University of Liverpool

Caitlin Dean, RGN MSc, Chairperson Pregnancy Sickness Support

Fiona Woollard, Professor of Philosophy, University of Southampton 

Jane Fisher, Director, Antenatal Results and Choices

Owen Thomas, Head of Programmes (Fathers), Future Men,

Irene Petersen, Professor of Epidemiology and Health Informatics, UCL

Amber Marshall, BigBirthas.co.uk

Dr Pam Lowe, Senior Lecturer, Aston University

Professor Billie Hunter CBE, Professor of Midwifery, Cardiff University

Dr Maeve Anne O’Connell, Senior Lecturer in Midwifery, Cardiff University

Chantelle Winstanley, Freelance Consultant Midwife, Midwifery Unit Network.

Dr Cassandra Yuill, Research Fellow, City, University of London

Dr Jessica Thornton, Paediatric Registrar, North West England.

Dr Sam Bassett, Lead Midwife for Education, King’s College London

Jo Gould, Senior Lecturer in Midwifery, University of Brighton

Professor Christine McCourt, Centre for Maternal & Child Health Research, City, University of London

Dr Lucie Warren, Lecturer in Midwifery, Cardiff University

Dr Irene Gafson, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Whittington Health, London.

Dr Jenny Carter, Senior Research Midwife, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and King’s College London.

Dr Jacqueline Nicholls, Associate Professor Health Law, Institute for Women’s Health, University College London

Dr Flora Bourne, General Practitioner

Professor Mary J Renfrew, Professor of Mother and Infant Health, University of Dundee

Dr Lucia Rocca-Ihenacho, CEO, Midwifery Unit Network 

Dr Rebecca Moore, Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr Emma Svanberg, Clinical Psychologist

Dr Jan Smith, Chartered Psychologist

Julia Sanders, Professor of Clinical Nursing and Midwifery

Dr Kayleigh Sheen, Lecturer in Psychology, Liverpool John Moores University

Keith Reed, CEO Twins Trust

Karen Khan, Senior Lecturer & Lead Midwife for Education, University of Bradford

Dimitrios Siassakos, Associate Professor & Consultant in Obstetrics, University College London & University College London Hospital

Dr Luisa Cescutti-Butler, Senior Lecturer Midwifery, Bournemouth University

Nessa McHugh, Midwifery Lecturer, Edinburgh Napier University 

Dr Nadine Edwards, Trustee, The Pregnancy and Parents Centre, Edinburgh

Alexander Heazell, Professor of Obstetrics, University of Manchester and Consultant Obstetrician, Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust

Natalie Carter, Consultant Midwife, Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust 

Andrew Weeks, Professor of International Maternal Health, University of Liverpool

Sally Shelldon, Professor of Law, Kent Law School

Gill Boden Birth, Practice and Politics Forum.

British Intrapartum Care Society

Louise Page, Consultant Obstetrician

Michelle Quashie, Service User representative


Dr Sheelagh McGuinness, Reader in Law, University of Bristol

Mavis Kirkham, Emeritus Professor of Midwifery

Clare Winter, Senior Lecturer Midwifery, University of Brighton

5 thoughts on “Long term impact of visiting restrictions “could be catastrophic” MPs, academics and campaigners warn NHS England CEO…”

  1. If I could have added my signature in time, I would have. Hoping for a positive change after far too long. In the meantime, please do feel free to direct any birthing couple adversely affected by the current measures to me should they need emotional support and birth healing. @SyntonicBirth

    • Hi Cate

      No this specific letter hasn’t – just to NHS England. As you will know the situation in each devolved nation is slightly different and in fact England is the country that has been least directive about the need to allow birth partners in at certain points in the maternity pathway. We are writing to individual Board/Trusts in the other UK nations and are taking each nation on a case by case basis. Hope that helps answer your question!



  2. Has anyone considered judicial review of a trust that stops partners being present at scans and throughout labour? My daughter is expecting her first child and has complications in her pregnancy so has hard decisions to make at her next scan but apparently she has to make them alone. This is so wrong. Your advice is great but what about taking some action? I am a public lawyer and this seems ripe for a challenge.

    • Thanks Julia We have looked at a JR with our legal partners before the national guidance changed in December and continue to keep that option in mind for the right case.


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