Expectant parents are currently subject to strict social distancing measures in maternity hospitals, even during and following labour
A petition calling for the Covid-19 restrictions on maternity care in Ireland to be lifted has almost reached its target of 35,000 signatures.
The petition, which is hosted on Irish community website Uplift, asks that the 'extreme restrictions' introduced at the beginning of the pandemic be relaxed, as "many other restrictions in general society have been eased, yet these ones which are causing severe unnecessary emotional distress have not been changed."
Restrictions on expectant parents vary by hospital and area, but many partners of pregnant women have not been allowed to accompany them to any antenatal appointments or scans. Partners have been prevented from accompanying their partner for the induction of labour until the woman is in 'established labour' or called for caesarean section. In many cases, the partner is forced to leave the hospital one hour after their partner has given birth, leaving mother and baby alone for the duration of their stay.
The petition, which was created by Caroline Cumming, draws attention to the emotional needs of both parents during and following the birth of a child. The petition description reads: "Anyone who has been through this experience knows how emotional and overwhelming the first few days can be, and the importance of having the support of your partner. Likewise new fathers are being denied the important bonding experience of the first few hours and days after the birth of their child, which should be a fundamental human right."
Restrictions on maternity care have been discussed at length in recent weeks at government level, with many political figures calling for them to be eased. Earlier this week, Sinn Féin North Kildare TD Réana Cronin argued that the said restrictions “are straight-up bonkers”, given that pubs had been given the go-ahead to reopen on September 21. "[It seems] more important for a father to be able to wet his baby’s head rather than to see his baby’s head”, Cronin said.
Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu has also weighed in on the issue, writing to the masters of Dublin's three maternity hospitals asking to ease the restrictions on pregnant women and their partners. Mayor Chu did so after a tweet from Twitter user Sarah Flynn gained attention online, telling the story of a woman who, upset after an antenatal appointment, cried in her car alone as her partner was unable to go with her.
Earlier this month, the master of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin Professor Shane Higgins stressed that restrictions introduced during Covid-19 had been effective in keeping the virus out of the hospital, and stated that he would not be "forced into making knee-jerk decisions because we are being put under pressure" from politicians.
Prof Higgins said that there was a possibility that partners would be allowed to attend 20-week anomaly scans, but added he did not believe allowing partners to attend other scans or clinics “is in anybody’s best interest”.
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