'You are not a visitor at your child's birth' - TD on maternity restrictions

ireland
Over 50,000 people have signed a petition for the current maternity ward restrictions to be lifted.
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James Cox

Ongoing restrictions at maternity wards across the country have been described as “frustrating” and amounting to limiting partners to visitor status.

The restrictions don't allow partners to attend early scans or the early stages of labour.

Women's “heartbreaking” experiences have been highlighted in a new survey by Uplift, while the organisation has also started a petition for the restrictions to be lifted which has over 50,000 signatures.

The petition was presented to Cork University Maternity Hospital in conjunction with an online rally on Thursday.

One of the TDs who attended the rally, Holly Cairns of the Social Democracts, has been calling for a review of the restrictions since September.

You are not a visitor at the birth of your child, you have a right to be there.

Ms Cairns told BreakingNews.ie: “Partners are already a close contact in many situations, with the person giving birth, so it's not an added risk in that sense. Is a father or a mother a visitor? Do you not have the right to be at the birth of a child? We put in a question about this to the Department of Health and yes they are considered visitors, I think there's something fundamentally wrong there.

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“You are not a visitor at the birth of your child, you have a right to be there.”

She added: “It's really frustrating, I've raised it in the Dáil multiple times with the Taoiseach, the Junior Minister for Health, the Minister for Health, the Cork and Kerry HSE regional group. Even this week we got a response from the Department of Health which was still nothing has been done basically.”

Ms Cairns said the issue has cross-party support but has not been prioritised, adding that the fact that there is no organised lobby group for pregnant women does not help.

“It's hard enough when things go well [with a birth], but it's a lot worse when they don't. We hear about things like rapid testing, why isn't that prioritised for bringing partners in?

“The dread of going through this alone, particularly for first-time mothers, is just heartbreaking. The last thing you need during a pregnancy is added stress.”

Lack of 'political will'

She cited “a lack of political will” as the main reason the guidelines have yet to be addressed, adding that this has put extra stress on already overstretched hospital staff.

“Hospitals are doing their best in following guidelines that haven't been addressed. They're overstretched when they have to fulfil the role of the partner as well, it's safe to say that hospital staff have enough on their plate.”

Ms Cairns said many partners are missing out on the early days of parenthood due to the restrictions.

“It's an important bonding time, if you go in for a c-section you could be in there for five days, that's five days the second parent cannot be with their child in that important time.

“In different situations they said, 'oh we'll make an exception,' for births that have complications or bad news but I've heard from people's experiences that this exception has not been made.”

Mr Cairns called for the current restrictions to be addressed immediately, adding that it should have been done "yesterday".

 

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