Parents plead for Covid maternity visiting restrictions to be scrapped in Wales

A first time mum whose baby was born prematurely last autumn says restrictions on birthing partners and maternity visitors in Welsh hospitals should be scrapped. 

Zoe Scrine gave birth to her son, Teddy, at the Princess of Wales hospital in October 2021.  

Teddy was born 8 weeks premature and spent 3 weeks in hospital.   

She is full of praise for the support she received from staff but said restrictions which limited only one parent visiting at a time were unfair and at times tough to cope with.

Since the pandemic began in 2020, visiting restrictions have varied across all health boards in Wales and continue to do so. 

Zoe said: “There were some instances when we got news which wasn't the best and with one of you in hospital and having to feed it back to your partner over the phone can be quite hard.”

She added: “As long as there are measures in place to ensure the safety of everyone, surely you should be letting both parents be there the whole time, otherwise you're going to see massive effects in terms of mental health and wellbeing and unneeded stress and trauma.”

There are calls for all remaining restrictions on birthing partners and visitors across Wales to be scrapped. Credit: PA

Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board has since reviewed its policies in regards to birthing partners and maternity ward visitors, and has announced that from Saturday (February 19), birthing partners will be able to attend all antenatal appointments.

A single nominated person will also be able to visit antenatal and postnatal wards for two and a half hour sessions each day.

Campaign group, Birthrights, has welcomed the decision to ease restrictions but described it as "too little too late" and said remaining restrictions now needed to be "lifted rapidly throughout maternity services in Cwm Taf and the rest of Wales."

Birthrights Programmes Director, Maria Booker said : “When partners go into hospitals, they've been screened or tested to see if they have Covid in the first place.  We have infection control measures, everyone’s asked to wash their hands, staff are wearing PPE.  

"So in that context, what is the marginal additional risk of having a partner in for two or four or six hours.  They’re already in for one hour.  So what difference does it make if they’re there for a few more hours?  But it makes all the difference for that family that they can be together for a longer period of time”.

Evelyn James from Newport had her baby, Winner, at the Grange Hospital, which falls within the Aneurin Bevan University Healthboard. 

Visitors to hospitals in this area are allowed to postnatal maternity units from 8am-8pm.  

However, Evelyn said her partner was not allowed onto the delivery ward until she was in “active labour”, or 4cm dilated. 

Evelyn believes this needs to change as she said she would have felt less anxious if she’d had someone to advocate for her in hospital.  

Evelyn James, from Newport, with her baby Winner. Credit: Evelyn James

Evelyn said: "I was in labour for four days.  It was four days of excruciating pain.  If you can open the pubs for people to sit down and drink, then something as important as birthing another life, what’s the justification from preventing someone to experience that, it doesn't make any sense to me.

“I was in pain and it would have helped to have support from a loved one.  If my partner was there, he would have been able to help, but he was outside, because I was only 2 cm dilated.  He was helpless.”

What are the rules on birthing partners and maternity visitors across Wales?

What are the rules on birthing partners and maternity visitors across Wales?

  • Aneurin Bevan

Birthing partners can visit the antenatal and postnatal ward from 8am – 8pm and can be present in the birthing areas for established labour and caesarean. More details here.

  • Betsi Cadwaladr

Birthing partners can be present from the point of active labour. Birthing partners can visit the maternity wards by appointment only and must take a lateral flow test beforehand. More details here.

  • Cardiff and Vale

Birthing partners can be present from the point of active labour (4cm dilated). Post-birth, the same named birth partner can visit for a maximum of 2 hours per day during specific appointment slots. More details here.

  • Cwm Taf

From Saturday (February 19), birthing partners can be present from the point of active labour and during labour assessment in a single occupancy room. A single individual will also be able to visit antenatal and postnatal wards for two and a half hour sessions each day.

  • Hywel Dda

Birthing partners can be present from the point of admission for labour. There may also be one daily visitor, during a specified time period of no more than 2 hours, on the antenatal and postnatal ward. More details here.

  • Powys

Powys Teaching health board's website states: "Support in early labour, Birth Centre Labour and Post delivery care is welcomed in line with Welsh Government Visiting guidance. Please talk to your midwife about your specific needs and circumstances." More details here.

  • Swansea Bay

Birthing partners can be present for the whole of the labour and the immediate postnatal period. After the birth, partners can visit each day, usually for a period of 2 hours.

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A Welsh Government spokesperson said:  “The safety and wellbeing of mothers and babies, as well as the staff who support them, is at the heart of the maternity visiting guidance. The focus remains on ensuring the delicate balance between protecting the many vulnerable individuals who are receiving treatment in our hospitals and allowing visiting which is important for the well-being of pregnant women, partners and families.

“Maternity services keep their visiting guidance under review to enable partners to support women at all stages of pregnancy and birth.

“The guidance on hospital visiting will be kept under review by the health boards and the Welsh Government.”