By Lucien Wilkinson

Doctors, midwives and midwifery students were more concerned about their exposure to COVID-19 while at work than the women receiving maternity care in the same settings, while the partners of those women reported feeling isolated because of changes to the way care was provided, new Curtin University research has found.

As national and international health leaders consider how to best provide maternity care in a post-COVID world, the research has produced the first-known evidence of the varied experiences of people involved in receiving and providing maternity care during the pandemic.

The research involved a survey of 3701 women, their partners, midwives, medical practitioners and midwifery students who had received or provided maternity care from March 2020 onwards in Australia.

Lead author Dr Zoe Bradfield from Curtin School of Nursing said health services had been forced to undergo rapid changes in response to COVID-19 and the study’s findings will help support further changes and future redesign as a result of the pandemic.

“The common finding across all five of the study’s cohorts was that anxiety related to the pandemic was high, however there were significant differences in the responses from each cohort for most survey items,” Dr Bradfield said.

“Pregnant women and new mothers were most concerned about the general threat of COVID to them, their babies and their families but less concerned about exposure to the virus through medical or health settings than the doctors and midwives working in these environments.

“Patients’ partners and midwifery students were more likely to feel isolated because of the changes to the way maternity care was provided due to the pandemic.”

Dr Bradfield said despite concerns that the quality of care would not meet expectations, most respondents were ultimately satisfied with the care provided although midwives and midwifery students were less likely to agree.

“The research offers a unique exploration and comparison of the experiences of different stakeholders receiving and providing maternity care during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia,” Dr Bradfield said.

“The findings of the study will contribute to an understanding of the broader human and social implications of health service redesign as a result of COVID-19.”

The paper, titled ‘Experiences of receiving and providing maternity care during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Australia: a five-cohort cross-sectional comparison’, is available online here.