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Support the mental health of maternity patients and allow partners to stay until discharge

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Today Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos announced changes to visitor limits for expectant mothers, their partners and support people in hospital. While expectant mothers will be able to have their partner or a support person with them for the duration of labour and birth. However, after the birth the woman's partner or support person will only be allowed to stay for two hours.

These changes are devastating for expecting parents. As a recent new mum I was lucky enough to have my partner with me for the whole stay. Two hours after our son Finn was born I had not moved from the birth suite bed or had any rest. In the hours after his birth my husband was able to go with Finn to special care nursery, while I was recovering from my epidural and unable to leave my bed. We were able to share the care of our son during those tough first few nights. I am not sure how I would have made it through the nights when Finn would only sleep when he was being held by one of us.

There is a large risk that today's changes will cause an increase in postnatal depression among parents. Parents, and new parents in particular, already have limited to no access to other family support. Limiting partner/support person visits to one two-hour visit a day will further isolate mothers.

Currently all pregnant people and their partner/support person need to be screened for COVID and isolate prior to admission. Partners or support people who test positive are rightly not allowed to attend the birth. Having partners come and go for visits is surely a greater infection risk than allowing them to stay until the maternity patient is discharged.

Previous restrictions allowed partners and support people to stay from the time labor commenced until the time we were discharged, providing that they didn't leave the hospital after their partner was admitted.

Partners should be able to attend the labor and birth of their child and remain in hospital (without leaving) to continue to support their partners until discharge as long as they do not leave the ward, providing that their hospital has the resources to allow this to happen.

Premier Andrews and Health Minister Mikakos please review and reconsider this restriction and remove the undue stress being caused to expectant parents. Mothers are not the only ones at risk in this situation.

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