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Campaign to let dads on all labour wards turns to baby bumps to get its message across
An eye catching campaign to let dads join their partners at pregnancy scans and during labour launched today.
When lockdown began in the spring many health services excluded dads and expectant fathers from antenatal and labour wards in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus. However as restrictions have eased dads have struggled to be allowed back.
Women have been writing the slogan #butnotmaternity on their baby bumps. Then they’ve shared the images on social media.
High profile pregnant women participating include Tory MP Alicia Kearns and former Big Brother winner Kate Lawler.
Holly Avis started the #ButNotMaternity petition on change.org in June. While pubs and shops were allowed to open, she still wasn’t allowed her birth partner at scans. The petition has so far amassed over 460,000 signatures.
Since Holly’s petition, pressure from the #ButNotMaternity campaign has led the Government to support an easing of restrictions. The NHS has also shifted its guidance. However, the Government has left the final decision about whether birth partners can attend scans and all stages of labour in the hands of individual NHS trusts. Campaigners claim this has created a postcode lottery for dads- and mums-to-be.
Currently, many hospitals across the UK only allow birth partners to be present for the final stage of labour. Stories have emerged of dads missing the birth of their children, and women having to receive heartbreaking news about their pregnancy alone.
Alicia Kearns is MP for Rutland and 26 weeks pregnant. She said, “The stories women and their partners shared with me are of still-births experienced alone, finding out their babies had died, of difficult and traumatic labours alone, and fathers missing births. Letters from fathers sat in car parks while their wives went through operations, women heartbroken and alone in hospitals, and from clinicians describing women devastated and traumatised on the maternity wards.
“I feel particularly strongly about hospitals not allowing partners until women are in active labour, because with my first child I never reached active labour, despite 36 hours in labour, induction and two trips to the operating theatre. Under the rules some hospitals are still imposing, I would have gone through all of that alone, without anyone to advocate for me when I needed it most in my life.
“This campaign is not just about women having a partner with them for emotional support; it’s about having an advocate who can make sure their wishes are upheld and protected when they are at their most vulnerable. Birth is not like the movies, and it’s wrong that anyone should go through it alone.”
Holly Avis is the petition organiser and mother of eight-week-old Monty. She said, “Not having the partner there from the start puts the mother at risk of being alone in a horrendous situation. Many stories are coming to light that partners are missing births. If partners were allowed from the start, it simply wouldn’t happen.
“What is also so entirely frustrating is that these rules are NOT consistent around the country. It is also irrelevant of Covid testing results.
“We need these restrictions to change. It’s absolutely ludicrous to have shops open, to allow socialising in bubbles of six people that do not live together, but keep this rule in place. Especially when it’s a total postcode lottery as to what rule is in place for you.”
Dads charity The Fatherhood Institute is also campaigning on the issue. They are looking for dads to share their experience of ante- and postnatal services via this survey.