COVID restrictions at maternity hospitals are forcing women to go through ‘some of the most traumatic experiences of their lives completely unsupported,’ according to a Dublin Councillor whose young baby died late last year.
Clontarf Councillor Catherine Stocker’s daughter Anna died a few weeks after she was born in late November last year.
On Moncrieff this afternoon, the Social Democrats representative backed the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) call for partners of pregnant women to be allowed to be present for all scans, during labour and during post-natal care.
“What it boils down to is that pregnancy, birth and the aftermath of birth are some of the most vulnerable – and joyful in lots of ways – but also, emotionally and mentally fraught and difficult times as well for a woman,” she said.
“To not have your partner with you to advocate for you, to help you practically and to lean on emotionally is enormously distressing I think for very many women – as we have seen from a lot of the stories that have come out over the period of these restrictions.”
Cllr Stocker said she was forced to go to the hospital alone last November when she noticed a reduction in her baby’s movements in the womb.
“Knowing that my partner wouldn’t be allowed in the hospital, I went in by myself to get that checked out – expecting to be reassured and sent home mostly,” she said.
“If we had expected him to be allowed into the hospital, he would certainly have come in with me.
“As it transpired, I got in, they did the checks they need to do and they were very unhappy with her conditions. They had to take me for an emergency section and because I didn’t take my partner with me due to the restrictions, I ended up having to go to that emergency section completely alone.
“I basically went through what is undoubtedly the most traumatic experience of my life without my partner by my side.
“When the baby was born, they kind of took her to a corner of the room and it was clear she was very unwell and they were kind of working and resuscitating.
“It wasn’t until quite a bit into that that my partner was able to get into the hospital.”
#ipaidforthis for myself and also for my daughters. No one should have to endure traumatic birth experiences because the men won't listen to us or make us a political priority. ALL partner restrictions need to be lifted now. #bettermaternitycare pic.twitter.com/O6Pkd2BeSi
— Linda Kelly (@lindabtweeting) May 8, 2021
Cllr Stocker said the Rotunda Hospital was extremely understanding in the days after Anna was born and allowed her partner to stay with her while they worked to save her baby.
“We knew Anna was very unwell and it was kind of touch and go for the week I was in the hospital whether she would live or not,” she said.
“As it transpired, she didn’t but the Rotunda certainly were very good in terms of allowing my partner to be with me after that.
“But I am very aware that there are lots of women who have gone through difficult experiences with babies in the neo-natal unit where their hospitals have not allowed their partners in, to that extent.
“So it is that inconsistency and not knowing what the situation is going to be that is really distressing for women.”
The HSE has issued guidelines calling for partners to be allowed attend the 20-week scan, active labour and during neo-natal care; however, Cllr Stocker said the rules “vary massively” depending on which hospital you attend.
She said coronavirus restrictions should always be based on a risk-benefit analysis – and warned that many hospitals are not considering the maternal mental health risks.
“There are women who have gone through some of the most significant events of their lives completely unsupported,” she said.
“We already have high levels of post-natal depression and post-natal anxiety and, certainly from the interactions I have had with a lot of women who have been through this, those are being compounded by the failure to provide proper guidance on this.
“I would fully support the NWC call from women to be, as standard, allowed have their partner at scans, during labour and in the post-partum period.”
— Womenscouncilireland (@NWCI) May 8, 2021
The NWC has written an open letter, signed by over 60,000 people, outlining its case to health officials and the Government.
You can listen back Cllr Stocker here: