Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart said she had been inundated with distraught parents following the introduction of new arrangements.
It was a point also raised by Alliance Upper Bann representative Eóin Tennyson.
Both politicians have issued a plea to the Southern Trust and Health Minister Robin Swann to reconsider restrictions.
In recent days the Southern Trust have announced the following restrictions:
• 12-week booking scan, 20-week anomaly scan or other high-risk scans – one birth partner can attend,
• in the Delivery room – one birth partner can attend when you are transferred to Delivery Suite or Midwifery Led Unit; they can stay for the birth and until you and your baby are ready for transfer to the maternity ward.
• a 1x1 hour post-natal visit for named birth partner per stay.
Mrs Lockhart said: “I have been inundated with expectant mums and dads contacting me totally distraught about the sudden change in visiting pre and post birth within the Southern Trust area.
“It has caused immense distress at a time when anxiety should be kept to a minimum and the whole experience of becoming parents ought to be enjoyed.
“There is a real sense of anguish amongst women who have been in contact with me. Naturally they want their birthing partner to be present to assist and support each other, and to bond with their newborn, and provide that much needed support to allow the exhausted mother time to rest post-delivery.”
She went on: “For those who experience difficulties it is vital that the support of a birth partner is an option for the duration. It is wrong that couples will be watching the clock awaiting the dreaded departure on a momentous and happy occasion.
“I am therefore calling on the Trust and Health Minister to make changes to these restrictions and allow for partners to be present for the duration. There is absolutely no reason why testing cannot be used to evidence that the birthing partner is not Covid positive, to allow attendance. Maternal and paternal mental health and welling being is being affected and this will undoubtedly cause difficulties long term.”
Alliance Upper Bann representative Councillor Eóin Tennyson has written to Health Minister Robin Swann and said it was important the Minister and Trust explore the option of removing these restrictions.
“I fully understand the reason why restrictions have been introduced in order to limit the number of people entering the hospital and minimise the risk of spread of Covid-19,” said Councillor Tennyson.
However, the impact on expectant couples has been significant and has caused many great anxiety. Having a partner present throughout the process is important for bonding, but is also absolutely vital for those who receive difficult news. “Women should be allowed to be accompanied by a birth partner at all ante natal appointments and scans, as well as throughout the entire labour process, and for a longer period after birth.”
Responding to the concerns the Southern Trust said its ‘absolute priority is to create as safe environment’ for everyone on its sites.
A Trust Spokesperson said: “Whilst we understand that there are concerns around maternity visiting, our absolute priority is to create as safe an environment as possible for visitors, patients and staff, given the increased level of Covid-19 currently circulating in this area.
“Increasing numbers of patients are currently presenting with Covid-19 in our hospitals. At present, we have more than 40 Covid-19 patients in our acute hospitals.
“The recent decision to allow a post-natal visit for the nominated birth partner was taken following careful consideration of the evidence available to us currently locally and from other places. While this is a small step, we have to consider the needs of everyone in the maternity unit and the need to limit, as far as possible, the number of people within the unit.
“We know that some women who have to remain in hospital for longer than the first six hours post-delivery are often vulnerable to significant Covid morbidity due to underlying health conditions and are at risk not just from their own visitors but others’ visitors. These women can have poor outcomes from infection from the virus.
“We will continue to work with all our mums and partners to understand their own individual circumstances, and we are doing all we can to provide support during the on-going pandemic.”
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