Call for clarity on birth partners

Leading midwives and obstetricians have called for clarity on birthing partners being able to attend early labour and pregnancy appointments.

During the height of the coronavirus pandemic some hospitals banned partners from attending antenatal appointments, including scans, to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

Others said partners could only be present when women were in the later stages of labour.

While some organisations have resumed normal services, others have kept the same restrictions in place.

But experts said there needs to be a consistent approach across England.

An online campaign has highlighted that some women are finding out about pregnancy loss at a scan but have no support, fathers are missing births, and other birthing partners are not being allowed to be with women in labour.

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) have called on the NHS in England to publish guidance on partners attending births and scans.

The Colleges said a delay in publishing the guidance is “unacceptable” and is causing “undue stress” for pregnant women and their families.

RCM chief executive Gill Walton said: “It’s completely unacceptable that NHS England has been dragging its feet and delaying the publication of this guidance.

“The RCM and RCOG worked together to support NHS England to complete draft guidance in early August, yet here we are, over a month on, with still no publication.

“Not only is this causing distress to pregnant women and their families, it is also impacting on our members, some of whom have faced abuse from visitors unable to attend appointments.

“We recognise that there is the need to vary local rules depending on circumstances, such as staffing levels and locally-imposed restrictions due to rising levels of Covid, but we urge NHS England to stop the delay and publish the guidance for all concerned.”

RCOG president Dr Edward Morris said: “We are extremely frustrated that this framework has still not been published by NHSE/I as the ongoing delay is causing unacceptable harm to the wellbeing of pregnant women and their partners.

“Guidance on visitors to maternity services has previously been published by governments in the devolved nations.

“Some Trusts in England have permitted partners to attend antenatal appointments and pregnancy scans. However, a consistent approach across the country is required to bring an end to the frustration and confusion among pregnant women and their partners.”

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