A COUNSELLOR has warned of an expected rise in post-traumatic stress if maternity restrictions continue in Letterkenny University Hospital.
Debbie Kremer is a maternal counsellor with Nurture Health. The national organisation provides counselling services in Donegal to women and their partners experiencing maternal mental health difficulties.
Under current restrictions at LUH, a nominated support partner of a woman in labour can attend. The nominated partner can go to the 20-week scan, and may visit the ward for a two-hour daily visit after the baby is born. This visit must be arranged with the ward manager.
Speaking to the Donegal News, Ms Kremer said restrictions are having a profound impact, with an increasing number of women coming forward for help.
“It’s an issue that has been presenting itself. While expectant mums are able to have their partners with them, there are still many restrictions in place.
“From our point of view, we have noticed the impact this is having on mums and their partners, and, unfortunately, it has been having a negative impact, particularly on first time mums who are already anxious and really need someone with them whom they known and trust.”
Ms Kremer said she has heard of fathers having to wait in the hospital car park until they were called in.
“Women giving birth for the first time wouldn’t have the experience or the confidence to ask if their partner can be let in as they wouldn’t know the specific stage of labour they are in. I have heard anecdotally that a woman’s partner has been called in too late.”
She said the absence of a partner or a nominated support person pre and post-birth can be very distressing.
“It’s important partners attend scans, which can pick up on foetal abnormalities because often women are being handed very upsetting news and have not had their partner with them.
“Following a birth, partners are only permitted to stay on the ward for a certain amount of time. This means that women have had very little support from the person they need the most. They have been left in a post-traumatic state. If they are alone with their baby and everything is not ok, which hasn’t always immediately emerged, that woman is then left isolated.”
Ms Kremer said she is aware of one woman who received devastating news while on her own.
“They received very distressing and concerning news. They were not able to bring anyone in with them. It was frightening for them.”
Ms Kremer said flashbacks were also now surfacing among women who gave birth at the hospital in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic last year. She said she was expecting to see a lot post-trauma emerging.
“What we’re finding is that women who gave birth last year and for whom time has gone on, they are still in distress and are experiencing flashbacks of their experience.
“The hospital is following a difficult rule and I think everyone was accepting of it in the beginning prior to the vaccination roll-out. Now, there are fewer case numbers and most people are doubly vaccinated. It is therefore frustrating to hear locally and around the country that restrictions remain in place.”
Nurture Health is offering online counselling and counselling from a practice in Donegal Town. Ms Kremer had previously been based in Letterkenny, and it is expected a counsellor will be back in place locally. For more information on Nurture Health see www.nurturehealth.ie
Meanwhile, ongoing maternity restrictions at LUH and in other hospital locations across the State have been slammed by Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty.
Speaking about the issue recently in the Dáil, Deputy Doherty said that while the country had reopened in many areas including education, retail and hospitality, pregnant women and their partners were “still being forgotten about”.
Deputy Doherty said that while some restrictions have eased, they don’t go far enough and there is no uniformity on the issue across State hospitals.
He revealed he had spoken to a mother who received the worst possible news about her pregnancy.
“In spite of the apparent easing of restrictions, the pregnant woman was left to face this news alone while her partner waited outside in the car park of Letterkenny Hospital because it happened during a routine appointment rather than at the 20-week scan which the partner could attend.
“Partners are still being denied access to scans and appointments. Many families are having to pay for private scans so that partners can get a glimpse of their baby before the birth.”