Published: 17 Nov 2021  |  Category: Healthcare  |  Stage: We have welcomed a family

Understanding maternity care in the UK

Learn how you can empower families to navigate maternity care and birth registration in the UK

Community Sponsorship Groups have supported many families that continue to grow after being resettled to the UK, with babies being born after resettlement. Although this is often happy news for the family, it can be bittersweet in the absence of their extended family network. You cannot replace family, nor should you try, but you can be there to help support each family member throughout the pregnancy.

If you’re a parent, the UK’s approach to maternity care may have changed since your children were born. The NHS website explains the current maternity care journey in the UK but is only available in English. Hospitals and GP surgeries will likely have more information available in the family’s native language.   

At the time of writing, this article reflected current Covid guidance. It is important that you check for the most up-to-date information.

A note on Covid-19

Maternity care in your area will have changed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many appointments are done over the phone unless the patient needs a scan or blood test – women may not have an in-person appointment until their 12 week scan. Also, depending on the hospital, partners and children are not always able to attend in-person appointments so make sure to help or remind the family to check the hospital or clinic’s guidelines. Changes will vary from hospital to hospital even in the same area.

Your role as a Group

Your Group’s role in the family’s healthcare is to support and empower them to access services and advocate with and for them, if and when needed. This does not mean calling to make appointments on their behalf – GPs and hospitals have access to interpreters. Nor does it mean leaving them to figure things out on their own. Below, we’ve explained how you can empower expectant mothers and their families to access and understand each stage of maternity care in the UK.

Your role in antenatal care

You can support a family member as soon as she tells you she’s pregnant by:

  • First, advise her to inform her GP if she hasn’t already – the GP may want her to come in for an appointment and refer her to a local hospital or may ask her to make a self-referral by calling or emailing the hospital herself.
  • Explain the number of appointments and different practitioners she will come into contact with – there will be scans at the hospital, midwives, antenatal appointments/classes (which men/partners can come to) and there will be regular appointments throughout the pregnancy.
  • Helping the family to choose which hospital fits best with their needs, if there is a choice, by asking them open questions – for example: is it more important that the hospital is close to their home or are they willing to travel further to a hospital with a newer birth centre? Would they prefer a home birth with midwives?
  • Understanding the current guidelines and restrictions in place at their particular hospital – you can ask for this advice in the family’s native language. If social distancing measures are in place, they may have most of their appointments over the phone.
  • Being available to help them understand appointment letters, which could involve texting a photo of the letter to a designated group member who can explain it further or help them follow-up with the hospital or GP – hospitals have been known to send out an appointment reminder and a change in appointment letter at the same time, which is confusing for anyone!
  • Connecting the family with antenatal and birthing classes – check if these are available in their native language in your area. Even if this is not their first child, antenatal classes are a great way to meet other local families! NCT also have a 90% cost reduction for women who receive Universal Credit.
  • Assist the pregnant mother to claim for Healthy Start or Best Start Vouchers for vitamins and food products to help during her pregnancy. Her midwife may refer her directly but do offer support if this has not been done. Visit Healthy Start for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or Best Start in Scotland.

Your role in postnatal care and health checks

Postnatal care in the UK will involve health and development reviews by a health visitor, which will continue until the child is two years old. They may be done in your home or at a GP surgery, baby clinic or children’s centre.

You can support the family to find out from their GP or hospital about how this will work in their area, if it will involve a home visit and how they can prepare. Having a health visitor come into your home to see where the baby sleeps and how you care for it may seem very invasive – you can assure the family that this would happen to anyone who gives birth in the UK and not because they are refugees.  

Registration and informing services

Things to do and explain after the baby is born:

  • Make sure family’s job coach at the DWP knows about the pregnancy when the family is ready to share this news.
  • You can explain that after the birth of the baby, the child should be registered locally (either at the hospital if offered, or with your county council within 42 days of the birth)
  • As a Community Sponsorship Group, you will need to write to the Home Office after the birth of the baby to register the birth with them – ask your contact officer or the Community Sponsorship Team who exactly to write to. This may involve a trip to a Home Office site where they will verify identity – read our resource on registering births
  • Explain that once the baby is registered with the Home Office, they will be given the same status as the family (i.e. 5 years leave to remain and refugee status) and will have their BRP – not doing this will mean that the baby won’t have access to services in the UK.

Further resources