Ruth Weston, co-owner of Aquabirths, speaks powerfully of her concerns about partners being banned from scans and consultations. She was forced by hospital policy to go into her scan alone when she had a miscarriage 27 years ago.
This story posted on instagram cuts to the heart of the matter:
“Today I went in for my 10 week scan, alone. Due to COVID, spouses aren’t allowed at your appointment which meant when the tech said ‘I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat’ I had to process that information, alone.
I had to get off the chair and collect my things in tears while nurses asked me questions I couldn’t even comprehend.
I had to hold my composure and walk to another room alone to wait for the doctor to tell me what I already knew.
I had to sit, alone, in a room by myself until they finally allowed my significant other to come inside.
How are we allowed to go shopping, drink at bars, and eat at restaurants, but I can’t have support with me when someone tells me my baby is dead? That moment was absolutely soul shattering and I had to do it alone, with no one to turn to because the clinic says “spouses cannot attend ultrasounds”.
Today is a terrible day and it’s one I’ll never forget. Sadly, my significant other wasn’t there to experience it so he will never fully understand what it felt like to look at our baby in real time and see no heartbeat. I saw it, alone, and it was heartbreaking.
If I can shop, dine, and drink, my significant other should be able to attend the appointment to see his child.
✌️❤️ Rest in peace little one.”
Birthrights statement regarding care during the pandemic says:
•One of the most important aspects of respectful care is a woman’s right to companionship of her choice during labour. It is a profound restriction on women’s rights to isolate them from essential support during a life-changing experience.
•Partners also have a right to family life and to be present at the birth of their child. Birth is a critical moment for the formation of a family with lifelong psychological and emotional impact. Prohibiting birth partners would be a serious infringement of their right to family life. (1)
Women and their families understand the need for restrictions to reduce the spread of Covid 19 but surely there is the creativity and kindness within our maternity services to prevent this kind of life changing suffering for women and their families? Surely the ‘care’ in Maternity Care includes this?
Along with midwives, doulas, radiographers and parents we have been calling for a more flexible and compassionate approach to the attendance of partners/supporters at scans and consultations – especially those where bad news is involved. And especially where women have disabilities. Yes, we have intervened in a case where a deaf/blind woman was being denied her chosen supporter at her scan.
We are also calling for the wholesale acceptance of video calling at scans and appointments as this poses no health risk to staff. We don’t think the fear of litigation is an adequate reason for allowing the suffering expressed above, the denial of women their right for support, and the denial of the other parent their right to family life.
We also note that recording of all medical appointments with or without permission is a legal right that hospitals staff may not refuse. Women also have the right to have their partner or support person on the phone, video or call. Health care staff who refuse to continue with the appointment if the woman is recording it or is on the phone would be breaching their duty of care, and may be liable if a poor outcome occurs due to a delay in the care offered.
We hope this view is shared by all readers and would urge you to do what you can to ensure creativity, flexibility and compassion are the marks of the maternity care delivered in your area.