New Bill aims to allow partners be present during childbirth

Legislation submitted by Aontú as party leader points to ‘ongoing difficulties’

Women receiving maternity care would be entitled to have their partner with them before, during and after childbirth under new legislation tabled on Thursday by the Aontú party.

The Maternity Care (Covid-19) legislation was submitted to the Dáil’s bills office today and comes in light of sustained criticism about visiting restrictions being imposed in maternity units around the country.

The Bill says a father or partner can attend on all occasions before the labour and birth when the mother attends or is admitted to hospital. It would also mean that a father or partner could attend throughout the duration of labour and the birth of the baby concerned and then for daily visits after the birth until the mother and child have left.

The provisions would also apply where the baby concerned is in a neonatal intensive care unit or special care unit of the hospital, allowing for at least one trip a day.

Where a mother attends or is admitted to a hospital as a result of a miscarriage or a belief that a miscarriage has occurred or may be occurring, she could also be accompanied.

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín TD said that the party “submitted this bill due to the ongoing difficulties experienced by mothers and fathers at some maternity hospitals. In some hospitals mothers are going into emergency presentations on their own.”

“This is hugely distressing. In some hospitals fathers can only attend when the mother is in the labour ward. This means that the early stages of labour which can last for many many hours has to be done on their own. Some mothers have to go to daunting appointments on the health of their babies on their own. This puts serious pressure on mothers and their partners. This can have significant mental health effects on mothers especially when the life of the child is in danger.”

He said that despite promises from Ministers that the situation would be resolved, little has changed.

"Senior clinicians in the HSE, including Tony Holohan, have put guidelines in place for maternity care. These guidelines have not been adhered to by many hospitals. This does not make sense. Most fathers and partners are close contacts of mothers. Antigen testing could be used to reduce risk further. Moving some maternity services such as antenatal services into a community care setting could relieve pressure on maternity hospitals and facilitate best practice. Maternity services are grossly underfunded and the ongoing culture war over the St Vincent's site is holding up the building of a new National Maternity Hospital. "

He also said the restrictions were coming at a time when life is returning to normal.

“Tens of thousands are attending football matches, people are going on holidays to foreign countries, thousands are attending concerts in the North, indoor hospitality has reopened and university students will return to campuses shortly.”

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times