Coronavirus confusion putting pregnant women at risk, charity warns

Tommy’s saw a 71% rise in demand for expert advice from midwives on its Pregnancy Line last month, as coronavirus left expectant and new parents struggling to get the information and support they need.

5 May 2020

Midwives on Tommy’s Pregnancy Line answered 514 urgent calls for help in April 2020 – a 71% increase on the 300 enquiries they would typically receive. These numbers do not include their social media messages from worried parents-to-be and women going through pregnancy loss, which have similarly surged.

Coronavirus pages on Tommy’s PregnancyHub have had over 100,000 views, and the charity is also answering expectant parents’ questions to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant through its new Tommy’s Midwife voice skill.

Common problems raised with the Tommy’s midwifery team include:

  • Women who are having a miscarriage at home, or think they might be miscarrying
  • Early pregnancy worries, such as bleeding and/or pain in the first few weeks
  • Pregnant women with questions or concerns who are reluctant or unable to contact their local GP, midwife or Early Pregnancy Unit because of pressure on the NHS.*

The charity is warning that mothers and babies could suffer as a result of the pandemic making people reluctant to contact the NHS or attend vital appointments, and is urging pregnant women to seek medical advice if they have symptoms like changes in their baby’s movements, severe pain or heavy bleeding.

Tommy’s chief executive Jane Brewin said: “Antenatal care is vital for the wellbeing of the mother and baby – but the coronavirus outbreak means that many don’t know who they can ask for help, or don’t want to bother our busy and beloved NHS.  

“Although services are adapting, they are still running, so pregnant women should not hesitate to raise any concerns with their midwife and go to appointments when invited. The large increase in people contacting us demonstrates that coronavirus is creating extra confusion and anxiety for parents-to-be, making midwives’ expert advice and support even more important at this time.”

Amina Hatia, a midwife who works on Tommy’s Pregnancy Line and recently re-joined the NHS, said: “I was nervous about going back to frontline healthcare work in a pandemic, but it’s been strangely reassuring, because I can see everything running well and I’m surrounded by helpful hardworking people. Social distancing is in place, we’re minimising contact, so it’s different but we make it work.

“You can bring one birth partner, but people are used to having their whole support network in hospital – so we take on that role now, which is very special. Wearing the masks is an extra challenge, having to smile with your eyes! We do phone appointments as much as we can, but people shouldn’t be scared to come in when they need to.”


* Coronavirus restrictions on hospitals mean there will be fewer non-emergency surgical procedures under general anaesthetic, so women who may otherwise have been treated in hospital are now more likely to have a natural or medical miscarriage at home. Pregnant women who need emergency care for severe pain, heavy vaginal bleeding, possible ectopic or molar pregnancy or other acute symptoms will still be seen and assessed in person – but because pain is subjective, women may be unsure whether they can access services.