‘Make a plan b with your midwife’ – our advice if you’re worried about maternity units closing

You may have seen articles in the media recently about the current NHS staffing crisis, with a new survey showing that in 2022, 4 in 10 maternity units or birthing centres were forced to close to new patients for hours or days at a time, due to lack of staff.

We know this news may cause extra anxiety, especially as you near your due date or if you are experiencing pregnancy complications. Here, our midwifery manager Amina shares her advice.

“It’s understandable to worry reading about maternity units temporarily needing to close due to staffing issues, especially if you are nearing your due date, but it is important that women and birthing people know that your midwives are there to support you and ensure the safety and wellbeing of you and your baby,” Amina says. 

“If you are feeling at all worried, contact your maternity unit, they can guide and support you to find the right care for you.” 

It’s a good idea to have a back-up plan in place in case you’re not able to be admitted to your closest maternity unit or unit of choice.  

Amina suggests: 

“Speak to your midwife, discuss with them what to do if the maternity unit needs to temporarily close – essentially find out what the plan B is and how to access care when you need it.  

“It's also important that if you are worried about your baby’s movements from 24 weeks onwards or feel unwell, you make contact with your maternity unit straight away.” 

We understand that reading news about temporary maternity units closures and staff shortages might make you worry about taking up space or ‘bothering’ staff unnecessarily. But if you notice a change in your baby’s movements it’s vital that you contact your midwife or maternity unit immediately, whatever time of day or night it is. 

The team at the Tommy’s Stillbirth Research Centre in Manchester have found that more women and birthing people are coming into hospital too late after reduced fetal movements. This might be because women are worried about adding to the burden on hospitals, or some women have reported that they have used handheld devices to try and monitor their baby’s heartbeat at home instead of going to hospital immediately.  

By reporting change in movements immediately, it is estimated that a third of stillbirths could be prevented. Please do not delay seeking medical attention if you’re worried about your baby. 

Through the Sands and Tommy’s Joint Policy Unit we’re calling on the Government to urgently address inequalities in maternity services and care, including action to address staffing shortfalls. Read more here