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Clare Womens’ Network calls for easing of maternity care restrictions

Dan Danaher and Fiona McGarry

RESTRICTIONS on hospital access for the partners of pregnant women are continuing to cause concern, and have prompted a campaign being lead in Clare by the local Women’s Network.

The organisation said it has received contact from a number of people affected by restrictions introduced in response to the pandemic.

One woman who contacted the network was critical of the fact that people are not being prevented from attending house parties, while partners and husbands are banned from attending appointments.

“I have had to go to my appointments alone,” the woman, who chose to remain anonymous, said. “I am always fearful that I could get bad news or something might happen and I have no one with me whose job is just to support me. It’s not fair that people can gather in houses and meet in pubs but I have to go through my entire pregnancy without anyone. It’s an awful burden to have to carry.”

The National Collective of Community Based Women’s Networks (NCCWN), which represents 17 groups nationally, is now calling on government to ease Covid-19 restrictions in relation to all pregnancy-related appointments, scans, full labour and births.

Elaine D’Alton, coordinator of the network in Clare said, “Expecting pregnant women/people to go through their entire pregnancy without the supports of a birthing partner present is adding stress, fear and anxiety to an already delicate and emotive situation. Every single pregnant woman/person in this country should be allowed to have the support of a loved one by their side as they go through this journey. We are calling on the government to ease the restrictions around maternity services.”

Restrictions, which came into force to reduce footfall in hospitals, and limit the risk of Covid-19, are decided on at local level and reviewed regularly.

A spokesperson said that University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL) regretted the distress and inconvenience the restrictions were causing, but that they were necessary due to the risk of a second wave of Covid-19.

Visiting is currently restricted to the partners/support persons of mothers in the Labour Ward/theatre only, with a strict limit of one visitor per patient. “Birthing partners are permitted to be present on the Labour Ward for all vaginal births,” the spokesperson said. “Partners are also permitted during labour in the case of elective C-sections. In the case of an emergency C-section under spinal anaesthetic, partners are permitted in theatre for the birth of the infant. If the C-section is being performed under general anaesthetic, the partner is not permitted into theatre and this has always been the practice in UMHL.

“Birthing partners are permitted to remain with mother and baby for approximately one to one-and-a-half hours after delivery but are unfortunately requested to leave when the patient is being transferred to the postnatal ward.”

The spokesperson added that, “In the extremely sad and unfortunate circumstances whereby a baby

becomes or is born gravely ill or unwell, occurrences such as this are sensitively managed on a case by case basis with the appropriate discretions made”.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has acknowledged how “traumatic” the restrictions can be and was critical of the fact that different systems are in place around the country.

NCCWN has made a template letter to help people contact politicians available on their website nccwn.org.


About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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