Change to Victoria's Maternity restrictions due to Coronavirus
Change to Victoria's Maternity restrictions due to Coronavirus
Today, the Victorian Government and Health Minister announced further restrictions on hospital visitations. This included restrictions on Maternity patients and the support they are allowed to have in hospital. I am currently 32.5 weeks pregnant with my first child after 3 miscarriages in a row in 2019. My husband and I have already had a horribly anxious and tough road (www.iamoneinfour.com for more on our story). These announcements are devastating for us as an expectant couple as well as for so many other women who are already in a significantly unique and stressful position with the current pandemic in Victoria and across the world. I am also a Health Professional who has worked in the public hospital sector for 8 of my 16 year career as a Paediatric and Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist.
New restrictions now mean that our support person is allowed to be with us for the labour and birth and 2 hours after this. Then they are only allowed to attend the hospital each day for a 2 hour visit only. (https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/visiting-hospitals-covid-19
Not only is this ridiculous as our partners will be coming and going but you have increased risk of Post Natal Depression (PND) in the lead up to birth and post birth as well as less support for women who have undergone traumatic birth or c-section as well as first time Mum's. There is an increased pressure on nursing staff and midwives to then provide more mental health support, physical support and care to mothers who are alone on the ward in an already strained hospital environment. Having spent years working in a hospital prior to a pandemic situation, there are already significant strains on hospital staff to provide care even with normal visitations and support from family and friends. This situation will further create stress for both patients, newborns and the staff involved in their care.
Previous restrictions allowed our partner to be with us from the time labor commenced until the time we were discharged, providing that they didn't leave the hospital after their partner was admitted. This minimizes the 'coming and going' which is a significant risk of partners bringing the virus unknowingly into the hospital. The new restrictions now create a 'coming and going' visitation system for partners who are already safe in the home with their expectant partners. This creates more risk for the partners potentially carrying the virus in and out of the hospital across consecutive days.
Under the new restrictions, partners are still able to be with us through labour and birth which can be upwards of 18 - 20+ hours in some cases! They are then allowed to remain with their partner and newborn for 2 hours before being told to leave. From this point, visits will be once a day for two hours. It is hard to understand the restriction in visitation given they are allowed to be with us for a significant amount of hours during labor and delivery. Why not just permit them to continue to stay with their partner for the duration provided they do not leave the hospital during this time as was previously recommended?
Father's and partners needs and mental health also need to be considered. I have noticed through our journey how much focus is placed on the Mother, but the partner also has an equally significant role to play during pregnancy, birth and care. It is only fair that they continue to be able to support their partners and be with their newborns to bond just as us Mumma's can. My partner is my rock and has been my light in many dark times during our journey, to not have him with me and to be alone for most of the day is what scares me most and I am sure many others.
There will be an increased risk of women self discharging against medical advice in order to be home and reunited with partners. This, in turn, will create potential further issues with women developing PND as well as significant risk of post birth complications requiring readmission and the increased use of emergency and ambulance services. There is already significant restrictions on home visitations, early discharge without family support is already challenging especially for first time Mum's and the complications of not having partner support in hospital along with early discharge to isolation at home will further complicate the mental and emotional state for new parents and families as well as those with existing children.
For women who undergo a c-section or suffer significant birth trauma or post birth complications, they are required to stay in hospital for a minimum of 5 days to heal from major abdominal surgery as well as deal with significant physical restrictions to self care, mobility and the added mental health strain of recovering from a traumatic birth. Without partners by their sides, these women will have to place significant reliance on the nursing staff and midwives to assist with many of their daily activities including feeding/bathing and changing a newborn. For parents who have their child in special care or who have post birth complications, the risk of significant mental health decline for both the mother and the partner is raised without the ability for partners to be able to be with you in those crucial few days.
There is a considerable difference between the care in private and public hospitals with regards to partner visitations in Australia and certainly within Victoria which is understandable. However, further consideration to the well-being of new mothers with babies born during a pandemic should be acknowledged. Not all hospitals will have the resources and capacity to make this happen without jeopardizing the health and safety of their patients - but those who are able to continue to have partners remain with their partners giving birth and post birth should be able to have the option to do so.
I request a review of these restrictions for Victorian/Melbourne maternity patients (especially those in hospitals where partners were previously allowed to stay in restrictions prior to Thursday 23rd July 2020). 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. This is providing that their hospital has the resources to allow this to happen. Maternity restrictions should not change from those in place PRIOR to July 23rd 2020. The addition of compulsory partner and expectant mother screening for Covid-19 could also be considered for those undergoing induction or planned c-sections as well as usual screening methods on admission.