BY Amy Rohu
Restrictions on maternity services are still in place in many Dublin hospitals, despite the Taoiseach and Minister for Health agreeing they should end.
The biggest problem surrounds the ban in Dublin hospital where birthing partners are being told to stay away until the expectant mother has gone into active labour. This has led to a plea from a mother who gave birth during the pandemic in the Rotunda last October for the restriction to be ended because it was forcing women to wait at home until the last minute because they wanted to have the support of their partners at such a critical time.
Sarah Verso-Ryan told the Dublin Gazette: “I went into hospital twice on one day and was told that labour hadn’t started and the midwife told me to go home, because if I stayed I’d be on my own and my husband would have to wait outside. So we drove home again.”
“Every time I had a contraction I was getting up to get on the floor to try and relieve it and then back into bed for three minutes because I was shivering. Then all of a sudden the contractions got a lot worse so we decided to go back to the hospital.
“We were stuck in morning traffic and by the time we arrived the porter had to get me a wheelchair. It was horrible as my husband wasn’t with me. Finally they allowed him to come in.”
She continued: “After another 14 hours I was brought in for an emergency C section as it had been so long, my temperature was rising and my son’s movements was slowing down. He too was tired because I’d been in labour for so long.
“After that, my husband was allowed in for about 20 or 30 minutes and then he had to leave and wasn’t allowed in until the next day at 5pm. I was really traumatised. I didn’t have my husband there and the whole thing about labour is you are supposed to keep your oxytocin levels stable to let labour process and the stress of him not being in with me of course my contractions were going to slow down. It’s really dreadful and unfair on everyone. I think its ending up in a lot more instrumental births too because it’s so stressful.”
Dublin Rathdown Sinn Féin representative Shaun Tracey recalled his experience along similar lines this week where he was required to wait outside the hospital despite his partner being frightened to be on her own.
“Ciara was in labour so attended The Coombe hospital. I wasn’t allowed in and at this time she was told after an assessment she was in slow labour and was sent home. She was very reluctant to go in again until she was sure she was in full labour. That week she wasn’t able to sleep, the pains were getting worse and she started to not be able to hold down food and water, so I brought her back in.”
He continued: “When she got assessed again it turned out she wasn’t in full labour and had an infection that had got pretty bad, but she was waiting until the last minute, she wanted to wait until her waters had gone to go in because she didn’t want to either be sent home again or made go in on her own”.
The current rules allow partners to be there during active labour. Shaun explained how birthing partners are important for all aspects of the labour, not just active labour: “With our first child Ciara was 24 hours in labour and I was with her all the way though that. When she needed the midwife or the nurse I was able to go and advocate on her behalf and tell them if she was in more pain, etc. If they are in there on their own they have to wait for the midwife to come around because a lot of the time they can’t get out of bed”.
Irene Lowry from Nurture Health said: Our expertise is to support women who are pregnant, the majority of calls we have taken since COVID are about isolation, feeling alone, going in for scans and getting difficult news alone. Women have been told terrible things about their baby and their husbands are outside in the car park for hours or are in work. All we would say is it is an atrocity against women that their partners cannot come into the hospitals. Some partners have missed the baby being delivered because it’s been so tight and some women have had really traumatic births on their own.”
In May, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said there was “no good reason in public health terms as to why these restrictions remain in place” and told the Dáil he would talk to the HSE to ensure maternity units comply and provide access for partners to maternity hospitals. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly claimed he was “quite frustrated” at the lack of progress in some areas about providing access.
When asked if current restrictions were expected to be lifted, the HSE responded by saying amendments had been made on June 11 and were published on the HPSC.ie website stating “that further clarification that accompanying a person on labour and childbirth “throughout the process” is intended to mean while the woman is in the labour ward.”
PHOTO – Elaine McGrath