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Making maternity and neonatal care personalised in the COVID-19 pandemic: Results from the Babies Born Better survey in the UK and the Netherlands

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ASPIRE COVID-19 research team

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0267415
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number11 November
PublishedNov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: This research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19 [grant number ES/V004581/1]. Full details of the main study are available via ResearchRegistry (researchregistry5911) and via UKRI Gateway ( %2FV004581%2F1). This research article was based on the Babies Born Better project that was developed as part of the EU-funded COST Action IS1405: BIRTH: ‘Building Intrapartum Research Through Health - an interdisciplinary whole system approach to understanding and contextualising physiological labour and birth,’ sustained by the COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Programme as part of EU HORIZON 2020. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Publisher Copyright: Copyright: © 2022 van den Berg et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

King's Authors


Background The COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on women’s birth experiences. To date, there are no studies that use both quantitative and qualitative data to compare women’s birth experiences before and during the pandemic, across more than one country. Aim To examine women’s birth experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and to compare the experiences of women who gave birth in the United Kingdom (UK) or the Netherlands (NL) either before or during the pandemic. Method This study is based on analyses of quantitative and qualitative data from the online Babies Born Better survey. Responses recorded by women giving birth in the UK and the NL between June and December 2020 have been used, encompassing women who gave birth between 2017 and 2020. Quantitative data were analysed descriptively, and chi-squared tests were performed to compare women who gave birth pre- versus during pandemic and separately by country. Qualitative data was analysed by inductive thematic analysis. Findings Respondents in both the UK and the NL who gave birth during the pandemic were as likely, or, if they had a self-reported above average standard of life, more likely to rate their labour and birth experience positively when compared to women who gave birth pre-pandemic. This was despite the fact that those labouring in the pandemic reported a lack of support and limits placed on freedom of choice. Two potential explanatory themes were identified in the qualitative data: respondents had lower expectations of care during the pandemic, and they appreciated the efforts of staff to give individualised care, despite the rules. Conclusion Our study implies that many women labouring during the COVID-19 pandemic experienced restrictions, but their experience was mitigated by staff actions. However, personalised care should not be maintained by the good will of care providers, but should be a priority in maternity care policy to benefit all service users equitably.

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