Pregnant mothers in Wales could take partner to maternity appointments after rule change

Mothers will be allowed to have their partners with them for maternity appointments following new guidance. Credit: PA images.

Pregnant mother in areas with low Covid rates, will be allowed to take their partners to appointments and patients could be allowed more hospital visits after new guidance was issued by NHS Wales.

The new rules for hospitals means that health boards, trusts and hospices will be able to make their own decisions on visits at the facilities over the coming weeks.

Previous restrictions had not allowed accompanying people to appointments unless there was an exception across Wales.

The Welsh Government said that the new guidance's flexibility came because of "varying coronavirus transmission rates across the country."

It comes after 6,500 people signed a petition online asking for a review of the rules for expectant mothers and their maternity appointments in October, it called for partners to be able to attend scans, the start of labour, birth and after the birth.

The campaign was backed by Member of the Senedd Bethan Sayed, who gave birth herself in April of this year.

Bethan Sayed MS gave birth to her son, Idris, in April. Credit: ITV Wales.

Speaking of her experience giving birth during a global pandemic she said: "The midwives did help as much as they could, we had a system where we could contact them at any given time, but they were rushed off their feet.

"I appreciate it's a worldwide virus, but there are ways we can make it more empathetic and better experiences for women, and I've talked to so, so many since I have given birth and they all say the same thing. Allow the partners in so that we can then look at this in a more positive light."

Previous rules in Wales surrounding maternity appointments included:

  • Only one person is allowed to accompany a woman in "active labour" - meaning 4 centimetres dilated and experiencing regular contractions.

  • The birthing partner must leave shortly after birth. This is "a few hours", according to Public Health Wales, though some say a one hour rule has been enforced.

  • Visitors are not allowed on the antenatal or postnatal wards.

  • Following revised guidance issued in the summer, partners can now attend:

    • 12-week pregnancy scans.

    • Early pregnancy clinic.

    • 20-week anomaly scans.

    • Attendance at the Fetal Medicine Department.

The new guidelines allow health care providers to assess local factors when agreeing on the visiting arrangements for facilities in the area.

It gives healthcare providers the power to change the rules depending on whether coronavirus transmission rates are falling or rising in the area.

In relation to maternity appointments, visits will be based on a risk assessment basis. The assessment will take in to account environmental factors such as room sizes, ability to socially distance and infection prevention.

The latest guidance said: "All women will be supported to have at least one partner with them during active labour, birth and for the period immediately after the birth, except in an extremely limited number of circumstances."

It also states that essential support assistants will not to be classed as visitors, in some circumstances, where people receive care and support from a family member or partner, they may nominate this person as their essential support assistant.

Health minister Vaughan Gething said it was "important" to recognise the virus has not gone. Credit: PA

Health minister Vaughan Gething said that whilst the slight relaxation in rules was positive for patients, it was "important" to recognise that the virus has not gone.

"We recognise that the restrictions on visiting has a huge impact on patients, their families and loves ones," he said.

It is important to remember that the virus has not gone away and the health, safety and wellbeing of patients, communities and NHS staff remains an absolute priority for both the Welsh Government and health care providers.

Health minister Vaughan Gething

"We have announced further changes to the guidelines today to provide health boards, trusts and hospices with flexibility to depart from the guidelines in response to local levels of Covid-19 transmission.

"Tough choices will still need to be made but we hope the revised guidelines will allow more flexibility for health care providers."