Pregnant Senator calls for partners to be allowed attend maternity appointments

Eileen Flynn says same rules should apply in all hospitals amid variations in access

A pregnant Senator has appealed for all maternity hospitals to allow partners of pregnant women attend medical appointments with them, amid variations in the Covid-19 restrictions currently in place in this regard in such facilities.

Senator Eileen Flynn, who told the Seanad she is expecting a baby in September, said that "there shouldn't be one set of rules for one hospital and another set for another. Every woman should have her partner with her on her maternity journey."

With the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic partners of expectant mothers were initially refused access to the State’s 19 maternity facilities in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus. Pregnant women were forced to go to antenatal appointments alone, with further restrictions on attending at labour.

Restrictions have since been eased in some facilities, where these maternity hospitals and units allow partners attend for the 20-week scan and for the majority or all of labour, while others continue to limit access.


‘Begging for access’

Ms Flynn said she knew of women who have been "begging the Department of Health to allow them to have a partner present for the birth of their child.

“It is a worry and a rollercoaster of a journey for any pregnant person. Why is a partner allowed in one hospital for maternity services and not in another?

“This needs to change for women. Since we talk about gender equality, the man, just as much as the woman, should have equal access to see his child and be part of the journey.”

She referred to comments by Prof Peter McKenna, director of the HSE national women and infants health programme, who said the improving situation in relation to Covid-19 meant restrictions should be eased.

“From the cancellation of antenatal classes and being told bad news going through labour to having to stay in hospital due to minor complications, women have been failed, even since before the pandemic, in respect of maternity services,” the Senator said.

The Co Donegal-based Senator also said it was an “illusion” that maternity care is all free. She said that a woman suffering extreme morning sickness is not covered for the payment for her medication. “The same applies to gestational diabetes in that women still have to pay for care during their pregnancy.”

Facebook petition

Earlier Fianna Fáil Senator Fiona O'Loughlin said she travels past the Coombe hospital on her way to Leinster House and "I see all of the expectant dads sitting in their cars outside of the hospital". Ms O'Loughlin said that "the restrictions relating to maternity hospitals should be lifted and dads should be allowed in for the complete duration of labour and for all antenatal scans".

She pointed to the efforts of two women, Emma Carroll and Ciara McGuane, who got 54,000 signatures in a petition on a Facebook page called In Our Shoes calling for the easing of maternity service restrictions.

The Co Kildare Senator also said she had received an email from a woman called Michelle who had “had a miscarriage last June and she had to hear the news herself and then go out and tell her partner. She is now pregnant again. The stress and the worry she is going through are huge.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times