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Dublin: 8°C Monday 8 March 2021

Rally held to call for an end to Covid-19 restriction that stops women's partners attending births

The rally was held at the Coombe Maternity Hospital at 5pm.

TD Holly Cairns holds a candle whilst attending the vigil.
TD Holly Cairns holds a candle whilst attending the vigil.
Image: Sam Boal via RollingNews.ie

A RALLY HAS been held outside the Coombe Maternity Hospital to protest against a Covid-19 restriction that prevents women’s partners from being in the wards for full labour and after the delivery.

The rally was organised by the national campaigning organisation Uplift, and was attended by at least two prominent female politicians, SocDems TD Holly Cairns and Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu.

The group wants the HSE and hospitals to recognise that pregnancy and childbirth can be a challenging and emotional experience, and that the continued exclusion of support partners is creating significant distress.

Last week, the HSE confirmed that partners would be allowed to attend the 20-22 week scan of a pregnancy. Campaigners say this doesn’t go far enough.

Linda Kelly, who had her second baby during the Covid-19 pandemic, said:

“Women and pregnant people are having to endure the very intense and scary experience of labour without the emotional and physical support of someone close to them.

Fathers and partners are then made to leave the hospital an hour after the birth of the baby, regardless of the emotional or physical needs of the new mother who is then left on her own for days without any family support.

“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.”

Physiotherapist Caroline Cumming, pregnant with her third child, said: “The restrictions prohibiting fathers and partners from accompanying women to the full labour and banning them from post delivery visits is extremely cruel.”

In response to a question from TheJournal.ie on whether action would be taken on calls for the restrictions to be lifted, the HSE said:

“Visiting, including partner visits, at maternity hospitals have been significantly restricted since earlier this year due to Covid-19, for the protection of women and infants, and our staff.

Re-introducing access to partners of pregnant women during the Covid-19 pandemic is challenging, and our priority must be the safety of women, their babies and maternity staff.

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“Nevertheless, the HSE is very mindful of the distress some of these restrictions may have caused women and their partners.”

It said that the Clinical Directors of all 19 maternity units have been keeping the need for restrictions under review.

It also said that as part of that review, the HSE re-classified partners as an ‘essential companion’ of a pregnant woman for the foetal anomaly or anatomy scan, usually offered from 20-22 weeks, from next week.

This is due to the ongoing low Covid-19 infection rate in maternity hospitals and units, it said.

We have had, in common with all other countries, Covid outbreaks in healthcare settings during the course of the pandemic. If a case of Covid-19 is identified which is linked to a maternity unit, the HSE’s Public Health teams will undertake a public health risk assessment. Recommended measures may include additional restrictions being re-implemented. Responses and recommendations for each maternity unit may differ, depending on the facilities and circumstances.

“We appreciate the patience shown by families as we work through these difficult months, providing high quality maternity and infant care and keeping our patients and services safe from Covid-19.”

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