Pregnant women no longer have to give birth alone after NHS changes rules

Pregnant women will be allowed to have their partner present during scans, labour and birth under new rules coming into force this week.

New guidance issued by the NHS says mothers-to-be in England will be permitted to have one person beside them ‘at all stages of her maternity journey’ and attend appointments as long as the support partner is not showing any Covid-19 symptoms.

Previously, it had been left to individual health trusts to draw up their own rules on whether a partner could be present. The regulations were brought in at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, meaning thousands of mothers-to-be have been forced to give birth alone since March.

More than 60 MPs had called for the ban on partners at the bedside during births to be lifted, saying it left women ‘devastated’. 

The new guidance said: ‘Pregnant women value the support from a partner, relative, friend or other person through pregnancy and childbirth as it facilitates emotional wellbeing and is a key component of safe and personalised maternity care.

‘It is, therefore, our aim, further to a risk assessment, that a woman should have access to support from a person of her choosing at all stages of her maternity journey and that all trusts should facilitate this as quickly as possible.’

The guidance said a chosen ‘support person’ should be considered an ‘integral part of both the woman and baby’s care throughout [the pregnancy] and not as a visitor.’ 

As part of the guidance, health bosses have been asked to undertake a risk assessment in each part of their maternity service with the aim of identifying if there is an ‘elevated risk of Covid-19 transmission if support people are present’.

The guidance added: ‘Many trusts have already found creative solutions to overcome remaining challenges and they have maximised the support that pregnant women can receive throughout their pregnancy.

‘It is important now that all trusts do this.

‘We are asking all trust boards to urgently complete any further action needed so that partners can accompany women to all appointments and throughout birth.’

Birthright welcomed the revision, tweeting: ‘Delighted to see the revised guidance for visiting in maternity services, recognising that #partnersarenotvisitors, that they are a ‘key component of safe and personalised maternity care’ who should be included throughout.’

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