I found out I was pregnant in August 2019. Despite some health blips, my pregnancy was an amazing experience – especially as I could share every moment of it with my partner.
Seeing his face light up and his eyes tear up as he saw his son on the screen at my 20-week scan, and watching him grin from ear to ear as he heard our baby’s heartbeat, were just a couple of highlights from my pregnancy.
It was truly amazing to have the person I love by my side as we watched and heard our baby develop, month after month right up until he was born in April 2020.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many expectant parents aren’t able to experience these amazing moments.
NHS restrictions have meant that in some hospital partners of pregnant people aren’t able to attend medical appointments, such as scans.
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This can be heartbreaking, with parents unable to share important moments before the baby’s birth together.
Maternity restrictions differentiate around the country, with visiting restrictions eased in some places, but many parents are still experiencing key milestones in their baby’s development without their partner there for support.
Charlie Sinclair, 24, and her partner Connor, 25, are one couple who have been affected by the coronavirus restrictions.
Charlie, from Portsmouth, is 21 weeks pregnant, and aside from suffering with migraines her pregnancy has been free of complications.
Her partner Connor, with whom Charlie has a daughter, Lana, hasn’t been allowed to attend a single NHS scan since Charlie found out she was pregnant.
To allow Connor to see his baby, the couple booked a private scan, but are keen to emphasise that this came at a cost – a private scan can cost uprwards of £100 per appointment, so this isn’t an option for all parents.
Charlie tells Metro.co.uk: ‘We booked a 16-week scan to find out the gender early. We’ve also booked another scan at 25 weeks so that Connor can see the baby again, and our little girl will join us.
‘I’ve been to both the 12 week and 20-week NHS scans alone. Going to scans alone, I have been full of anxiety, constantly worrying about something being wrong, and having to find out alone – and then having to be the bearer of bad news to my partner.
‘My partner finds it horrible, and even struggled to get excited and not to panic about things.
‘He’d be texting me multiple times to ask what was happening, especially at my 12-week scan as I was there for two-and-a-half hours.
‘It’s been difficult to remember everything discussed at scans to reiterate back to him, so then I feel a bit guilty about potentially missing things out that he’d like to know.’
Charlie says that Connor has grown to be more excited since having a private scan, and that feeling the baby move has helped him form a connection.
But the mum feels ‘annoyed’ that Connor can’t come to the NHS scans while pubs, restaurants, and shops have been allowed to reopen.
‘Our relationship has got stronger throughout lockdown and pregnancy,’ she says. ‘This pregnancy is off the back of a horrible end to last year, so it is really special to us.
‘I understand about the safety of our NHS staff members, but it feels rubbish because Connor and I live together, so we are from the same household – and it’s his baby too.
‘He is just as important as I am when it comes to this baby, and deserves to be there to find out information about his child.
‘I imagine people that have struggled to conceive, or aren’t planning any further children, and just sympathise so much that they may not get another chance to see their baby on a screen in the future.’
Charlie would like to see partners be able to come to scans as well as midwife appointments. She believes it should be allowed if they take the correct precautions, such as wearing a mask and keeping their distance.
She adds: ‘I personally can’t see an issue with it. It’s important for partners to be involved in the pregnancy so that they get to bond and be there. Not everyone can afford private scans, and some private scan places are sneakily upping prices as they know people are more likely to book right now.
‘It’s not fair that partners are missing out on such special moments with their baby.’
Ellie Carey is 24 and her husband, also named Connor, is 27. They are expecting their second baby.
Ellie, from Crawley, is 26 weeks pregnant.
‘We found out we were expecting a week before lockdown’, said Ellie.
‘Lockdown started on my son’s first birthday. I was told by work to stay at home.
‘In this time, the care for maternity changed significantly due to Covid-19. I am under consultant care, but I still haven’t met or even spoken to my consultant.
‘Luckily I am under a specialist midwifery team and my GP has been calling regularly to see how I am.
‘I’ve had to start cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) due to anxiety, which has been made worse by lockdown – but also from trauma of my past pregnancy.’
Ellie’s husband, Connor, hasn’t attended any scans. He has had to wait outside in their car for both the 12 and 20-week scans.
Heartbreakingly, a scan is how the couple found out that their first baby had died – so Ellie’s anxiety around scans is high.
After chatting to her midwife about how going through the 12-week scan alone caused her so much distress, her midwife insisted she join Ellie for the 20-week scan so that she wasn’t on her own.
Ellie also had to wear a face mask for the 20-week scan.
She said: ‘We haven’t booked any private scans yet as I am meant to have growth scans to monitor my baby towards the end of the pregnancy, so we want to see if the guidelines change.
‘Connor always adored attending scans with our son. He has said he found the 12-week scan the hardest because I wasn’t even allowed to video call him, he just had to wait to hear how everything was.
‘I was also gone for quite a while so that didn’t help. I absolutely hated leaving him in the car.’
Ellie says she and Connor are a very strong couple, but Connor has ‘certainly found it hard bonding with baby’ when he hasn’t been allowed to attend scans.
Ellie told us: ‘He is finding the discussion of names quite hard and choosing baby clothes.
‘It doesn’t help that I have an anterior placenta so her movements are hard to feel from the outside.
‘I had a very hard pregnancy with my son, and always said I wanted to enjoy my next pregnancy, but the pandemic has taken that away.
‘We both somewhat understand why the hospitals have put the guidelines in place, and I’m not as bothered about pubs and restaurants opening – it’s more the attitudes of people.
‘The lack of social distancing, especially on hot days at the beach. The absolute disregard of others that I’ve seen.
‘The pandemic has brought out some wonderful care towards people but also a lot of negative.
‘Like, I’m sorry you’ve had to queue outside for half an hour to get your Nando’s fix, or can’t wait any longer to get a £1 thong from Primark. My husband still hasn’t seen his own baby.
‘The scans are a massive life event and dads help create that new live in the woman’s belly. They have as much right to see their baby as the mum does.’
Over the lockdown period, a number of petitions have been started to demand important changes to maternity services.
But so far, the petitions that gained thousands of signatures have been rejected by the Government – with the reason: ‘It’s about something the UK Government of Parliament is not responsible for.
‘Decisions about visitors are a matter for the NHS, not the Government or House of Commons.’
Some hospitals are now allowing partners to attend scans – but this is at the discretion of each trust. So far, hospitals allowing visitors include Blackpool Victoria Hospital and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital – but this is for scans only, not other antenatal appointments.
As a result of coronavirus, partners have missed out on moments they will never be able to get back.
With mums anxious about going to appointments alone and partners feeling a lack of connection with their unborn children, it’s no wonder parents are fighting for change.
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