NHS leaders have published guidance on how hospitals can safely “reintroduce” partners, visitors and other supporters of pregnant women back to maternity services in England.
During the height of the coronavirus pandemic some hospitals banned partners from attending antenatal appointments, including scans, to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
Others said partners could only be present when women were in the later stages of labour.
While some organisations resumed normal services, others have kept the same restrictions in place.
As a result experts called for a consistent approach.
An online campaign also highlighted that some women were finding out about pregnancy loss at a scan but had no support, fathers have missed births, and other birthing partners were not being allowed to be with women in labour.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (Rcog) called on the NHS in England to publish guidance on partners attending births and scans.
Dr Edward Morris, president of Rcog, said: “We welcome the publication of this framework to support Trusts in England safely re-introduce measures enabling partners to attend to antenatal and postnatal appointments, including pregnancy scans.
“This is an important step for the health and wellbeing of pregnant women and their partners, who have understandably found it difficult not to share the experience of a pregnancy scan, attend important appointments, support women in early labour or spend time with their newborn babies on the postnatal ward.”
Gill Walton, chief executive of the RCM, added: “Visiting restrictions during the pandemic have been challenging for everybody, particularly for pregnant women and their families at an incredibly important and transformative time in their lives.
“These new guidelines are good news for them and for staff. They set out clearly the rules around visiting, providing much needed clarity about who can visit and the precautions they need to take to ensure visits can be done safely for themselves, for the people they are visiting, and for staff.”
Health leaders published the guidance later on Tuesday.
The Framework To Assist NHS Trusts To Reintroduce Access For Partners, Visitors And Other Supporters Of Pregnant Women In English Maternity Services sets out how services can resume some sort of normality while still operating in a safe way during the pandemic.
An NHS spokesperson said: “The safety of expectant mums and their families is always the absolute priority, which is why it is right that this guidance has been developed in close consultation throughout with frontline experts as well as government.
“Following extensive engagement with the various professional bodies involved, joint guidance has been published today.”
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