Kildare campaigner recounts harrowing stories of new mums in pandemic restrictions

A campaign led by a Kildare mum Emma Carroll to ease Covid restrictions in maternity hospitals banning partners from the crucial 20-week scan, early labour and other appointments has been backed by Senator Fiona O’Loughlin.

Senator O’Loughlin is calling on the Minister for Health to lift restrictions on partners in maternity hospitals now that the majority of healthcare workers have been vaccinated.

“In September of last year, myself and Clare woman Ciara McGuane set up the In Our Shoes – Covid Pregnancy platform on Facebook and Instagram to tell the stories of the people affected by the restrictions placed on maternity care in March of last year, in people’s own words,” said Emma who lives in Rathangan and had her baby in April 2019. “We have been inundated with stories and experiences from people the length and breadth of the country, most recounting harrowing experiences. The stories paint a picture of the state of maternity care throughout this pandemic.”

The campaigning duo have also worked with Uplift to continue to highlight the plight of people accessing maternity care, work which has included a currently over-54,000 signature strong petition to allow partners to be present for the entire duration of labour and at all antenatal scans, which was presented to various maternity units in December.

However, over a year since their implementation, there has been very limited easing of restrictions in maternity care, despite very high levels of staff vaccination. A relaxation of the rules was not included in the latest measures announced by the Government and the HSE has said that in a bid to keep maternity hospital’s safe it is still too early to allow normal visitation to commence.

“No meaningful, evidence-based justifications have been provided for these restrictions, and the effects of the restrictions continue to cause untold damage to women, their partners and their babies,” she added. “Both NPHET and the HSE have washed their hands of the problem, and due to governance structures in the 19 maternity units across the country, no answers have been given on these restrictions, or a timeline indicated for their removal.”

Senator O’Loughlin who had a meeting on Monday, April 13 with representatives from Covid Women’s Voices group has stated that she fully supports this campaign to lift restrictions in maternity hospitals.

 “I am writing to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to ask that restrictions be lifted in maternity hospitals,” Senator O’Loughlin said.

“I fully support the campaign and I agree with it. Whilst regulations are in place to keep Covid infections down, the fact that medical and hospital staff are now all vaccinated should lead to a relaxation. Pregnancy is generally a happy time, but is not without its stresses and worries, and support of a partner/significant other is really important.”