Expectant parents feel cheated by "new" maternity plan - Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD has called on the Minister for Health to urgently intervene to allow pregnant women to be supported by their partners at appointments and scans, for the full duration of labour, and at every opportunity where it can be safe to do so.
The Cork South Central TD said:
"Yesterday saw a lot of restrictions lifted, and that is great news. A lot of people can now do things they haven't been able to do for a long time.
"However, one group of people who feel desperately disappointed is pregnant women and their partners.
"My partner is 28 weeks pregnant and I was very much looking forward to being able to attend the next growth scan as the leaks on Wednesday seemed to suggest I could.
“What is really frustrating is that the government was trying to present yesterday as an easing of these restrictions, when as far as I'm concerned what was presented yesterday was already in place.
“The past number of months have been an extremely stressful and worrying time for all parents expecting a baby.
“I have heard many harrowing stories of the most difficult situations, of local women going to their appointments alone to find out the most awful of news, while their partner had to wait in the car.
“Sadly, this isn’t unthinkable or unimaginable, these are real women and these are real stories.
“You can imagine the relief felt by families when a plan was leaked on Wednesday night that promised access for partners to all scans and appointments.
“The reality is that attendance at a 20-week scan and during established labour, announced as a ‘new plan’ yesterday, was already in place in most hospitals.
“Expectant parents feel conned. The fact that the government hasn’t even attempted to properly explore options here - such as rapid antigen testing for partners - points to the lack of respect and attention they are giving to this issue. Meanwhile, pregnant women and their partners are suffering.
“The vast majority of maternity staff are vaccinated. Under a new, very welcome announcement, pregnant women are being prioritised for vaccination. Surely, this makes it safer to ensure that women can be supported throughout their pregnancy, in labour and in childbirth.
“The World Health Organisation believes that every woman has a right to a companion of choice during childbirth. The organisation strongly recommends supporting women to have a chosen companion during labour and childbirth; including during Covid-19.
“They say: ‘in the ‘new normal’ of Covid-19, the WHO strongly recommends that the emotional, practical and health benefits of having a chosen labour companion are respected and accommodated. The pandemic must not disrupt every woman’s right to high-quality, respectful maternity care.’
“This isn’t a luxury or an extra - the presence of partners is clinically beneficial. If the WHO are saying that this needs to be done, surely it can be and must be.
“The Minister for Health needs to urgently intervene and set out the minimum standards of partner access for all hospitals, including at appointments and scans, for the full duration of labour, and at every opportunity where it can be safe to do so.
“All pregnant women deserve to be properly supported throughout the duration of their pregnancy, as is their right."