Restrictions for partners accompanying women giving birth will not be revised in the near future, Northern Ireland’s chief nursing officer has said.
Currently a woman can only be accompanied by a partner in active labour, and for an hour after birth, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some politicians have called on Health Minister Robin Swann to change this.
Prof Charlotte McCardle said that “nobody wants this situation to be the case” but it was necessary.
“Unfortunately there is a fine line between trying to balance the risk, keep everyone safe, and provide what we call a Covid-19 secure environment, and the freedom to have other people with them,” the chief nursing officer told the BBC’s Sunday With Steven Rainey programme.
“Nobody wants this situation to be the case, not least the women themselves, their partners and the team that are caring for them.
“The minister has already said that these are difficult decisions which have to be made in light of the pandemic.”
‘A bit of extra support’
Laura McClune, who is 37 weeks pregnant with her first child, told the programme that the prospect of being in labour on her own is daunting.
“I think all any couple, like us, wants is to have what everyone else has been entitled to, which is to have a birthing partner, someone just to give you a bit of extra support,” she said.
“While you’re able to go out for drinks in a bar, how can that be safer than allowing a daddy, who is more than willing to wear full PPE, to come in?”
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, Ms McClune, from Newtownards, County Down, had to attend her 12 and 20-week scans alone.
“It’s a two-hour appointment and that’s when you’re hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the very first time so not having someone with you is definitely quite isolating but I’m very happy that they’re allowing partners in now because it is very important for mothers to have that support,” she said.
“I know other couples who have gone along for their scan and unfortunately there hasn’t been a heartbeat and the mum has had to find that out alone, which I don’t feel any mother should have to do.”
Alliance Party leader Naomi Long has written to Health Minister Robin Swann asking him to consider easing the restrictions.
“The impact on pregnant women and their partners has been significant – being present at antenatal appointments and scans is not only an important part of the bonding process, but is absolutely vital for those who receive difficult news,” she said.
“It is not acceptable they have to face that alone.”