A heavily pregnant young woman is calling on health Minister, Stephen Donnelly, to lift restrictions that see husbands or partners unable to accompany expectant mothers to critical hospital appointments.


Laura Brunton, from Oldcastle,  is due to have her new arrival by caesarean section in late December and doctors had feared that as her son Zach has a rare congenital heart disease the new arrival might face similar issues.


In recent weeks Laura attended Coombe maternity hospital, in Dublin, for a scan which would show whether or not this was the case, but under existing HSE regulations, her husband Nicky was forced to wait in the car park, something she says added enormously to the pressure of the situation.


‘I have previously had a miscarriage and on the day we found out about that I thanked God Nicky was with me, when the doctor told us there was no heartbeat my mind went blank and I recall nothing after that.


‘They told me all the details about the surgery I would need but that all passed me by and only Nicky was there to take in what they were saying and comfort me it would have been much worse.


‘So you can imagine how I felt going into to the scan on my own this time around, and I can’t think of the anxiety Nicky was going through, now thankfully our news was good but we should have been able to hear it together.


‘The car park was full of daddies to be pacing up and down waiting for news, and I just felt it was all wrong.


‘What’s even tougher on the father is the fact that after the birth they will get one hour with their child and then won’t see them again until they come to take them home.


‘I know that this time I am going to be in the hospital for four days at least and what if anything goes wrong in that time. I mean Zach was born fine and got ill quite suddenly if that happens again Nicky won’t be able to be there.


‘I’m lucky in that I actually enjoy the feeling of being pregnant but this just adds to the stress of it.


‘Covid isn’t going anywhere any time soon and women are not going to stop getting pregnant either so we have to find a way of working around it, the regulations now are just causing more problems than they are solving, and I guarantee you there will be long term mental health issues for both sexes.


‘When I found out back in April that I was pregnant there was a full lock down on and I could understand why the rules were in place, they were there to protect the parents, the staff everyone.


‘But now we have a situation where front line workers for example can go down the pub if they want, go to football matches or wherever they want, why can’t my husband or any other woman’s husband come into a vital hospital appointment with them.


‘Certainly have a temperature check on the man and insist on them wearing PPE gear but allow them their to support their other half when they are vulnerable.


‘Nobody can justify imposing that ban right now, I’d accept that maybe they still need to be enforced in Dublin but there are pregnant women in more places than Dublin!’


Earlier this week the HSE suggested there could be a virtual link established which would have the effect of allowing a woman’s partner watch proceedings in the hospital, however Laura slammed that idea claiming most couples do it already.


‘Do they not think women are doing this right now as we are talking I’m sure every woman is face timing her husband multiple times through the day showing them the baby that they can’t visit It’s an insult if they think this is an appropriate way of dealing with this.


‘Look I don’t expect that the daddies should be in at every appointment but at the big ones yes they should be allowed in, and Stephen Donnelly needs to change it now.’


A HSE spokesman said,’ ‘Hospitals are free to decide their own policy, they can make whatever decision they feel appropriate in relation to visits. Imposing restrictions would be undesirable but unfortunately, it will happen from time to time.


‘Most hospitals, though not all, are allowing fathers to have postnatal visits and it is desirable that this is facilitated wherever possible.


‘While there are restrictions in place it is important to say that we are not happy that this is the case and are actively looking at alternatives..


‘We have huge empathy with people who find themselves caught up in this situation and we have considered all implications surrounding it, but we have to prioritise the need to keep the environment in maternity hospitals safe for staff and patients.


‘If a key member of staff became ill all other staff who had been in close contact would have to self isolate which would make it incredibly difficult to maintain services.’