Restrictions on Maternity Care

Mon, Nov 2, 2020

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The ongoing restrictions around partners joining pregnant people at their antenatal scans and during labour have been raised with me on a number of occasions over the last few weeks. It would seem that both the restrictions themselves and the way in which they are implemented vary greatly between hospitals and care providers. This is leading to a great deal of distress among those receiving care.

Restrictions on Maternity Care

While I fully recognise that the maternity hospitals’ imposition of visitor restrictions is based on patient and staff safety, I sought to write to the Minister for Health to ask him to consider the impact of the current restrictions on pregnant people and to request a consideration of a review in conjunction with hospitals and care providers.

The Minister provided the following in response to my request:

"With regard to the presence of husbands or partners at maternity appointments, labour wards and delivery theatres, it is of course desirable that the impact of Covid-19 on the experience of women and their families in maternity care is kept to an absolute minimum. In that regard the National Women & Infants Health Programme has provided assurance that the midwifery and obstetric community are acutely aware of the important support provided by partners or companions and that they wish to facilitate this as far as possible.

"Maternity services are a core, essential service and as such need to be able to provide 24/7 care to all women requiring it as the country continues to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. However, it should be noted that in the context of the current public health emergency, each of our 19 maternity units/hospitals are facing significant challenges. Such challenges may vary considerably between units and, indeed, over time as the situation evolves. In that context it is important to remember that any changes to how services operate, including restrictions, are put in place to minimise the risk of spread of Covid-19 in the community and to protect hospital staff and patients as much as possible.

"In relation to restrictions currently in place in maternity services, the HSE have issued guidance regarding attendance at acute hospitals, and maternity hospitals fall under such guidance. The guidance notes that a partner should generally be facilitated in accompanying a woman in labour and childbirth, and that while most hospital in-patient stays in maternity services are of short duration, it is generally appropriate to facilitate visiting by a partner through this period. It further advises that parents should be facilitated in visiting an infant who is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, with due regard for the need to manage the risk to all infants in the NICU.

"The National Women & Infants Health Programme has advised that all maternity hospitals are working towards complying with the updated guidance. However, it should be noted that, during the current public health emergency, this guidance may be subject to change.

"I hope this information can be of assistance to you."