Allow non-birthing parents access to antenatal education and ultrasounds in Victoria

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There is currently 1 COVID case in Quarantine in Melbourne, with a further 6 active cases. There is no known cases of community transmission at this time.

Despite this, Public Hospitals in Melbourne still refuse to change their policies in regards to the non-birth parent attending antenatal appointments and ultrasounds. In some cases, Hospitals are still insisting pregnant mothers conduct all their appointments via tele-consults, which could mean that high risk pregnancies are being missed and the risk to unborn babies is increased.

I am a Victorian resident, currently pregnant with my 2nd child. Not only am I a pregnant mother, I am a trained Social Worker and Pregnancy Counsellor. One of my roles is to facilitate birth trauma peer support groups for the Australasian Birth Trauma Association. 

I am concerned and frustrated by the public health system's ongoing strict restrictions, and the lack of support and care for pregnant mothers and fathers or non-birth parents.

Research shows that fathers are becoming more likely to experience post-natal depression, and that they may experience more challenges bonding with their baby, given they do not feel the same hormones as the birth parent, nor have the intimate opportunity of bonding with the baby in utero. The ultrasounds are a key time for fathers and non-birth parents to begin their relationship with their child, and start to form this bond.

In addition, fathers or non-birth parents are expected to support the birthing parent in labour. However non-birthing parents today are receiving no support or education in the lead up to the birth, and may therefore be overwhelmed and unsure of what to do when their partner is in labour.

My husband and I experienced a distressing and traumatic birth with our first child, 2 years ago and delayed conception to overcome our fear of birth and mental health issues related to the trauma. I am very concerned that my husband's minimised opportunities for involvement in this pregnancy, through no choice of his own, will have an impact on us as parents and detract from what could be a positive birth experience second time round. I am also concerned his lack of knowledge about what to expect, will compound his trauma experience further.

Can you please support us to make changes NOW to the public health system. It is unjust that the non-birth partner is being treated as though they are not part of the birth. They are an equal parent and as such, have a right to be at these appointments. I do not appreciate that I can go to the beach with hundreds of people, or my local cafe with 40 people, but my husband has missed ALL of his babies ultrasounds. I am especially saddened for first time parents, who have missed these opportunities altogether and who may not have not been able to enjoy a normal, supported and safe pregnancy.

I appreciate that Hospitals need to be a safe place for all, and therefore strict hygiene measures should be practiced, but I believe strongly that Hospitals can find ways to include non-birth parents in antenatal care whilst following COVID safe measures.

Please help get this message to those who can make changes to current restrictions in the Victorian Public Health Service System. We need changes now to reduce the impact of mental health on new parents.