Hospital chiefs are set to allow more birth partners to be with mums in labour in Bedford.
Restrictions on visitors to the maternity unit at the hospital’s Cygnet Wing are much tighter than nearby Milton Keynes and Cambridge, and a Bedford councillor quizzed chiefs over their stance on Monday.
Cllr Lucy Bywater (Green, Castle) said, “I can’t imagine going through labour on my own.
“Bedford Hospital maternity staff are absolutely wonderful but I think we have to think about women who have been through past trauma. They may have had a stillbirth or miscarriages.”
But Bedford Hospital has only recently let partners in during “established labour” rather than during the whole experience.
And a meeting of Bedford Borough Council’s health scrutiny committee heard that antenatal visits are not allowed, unlike in Milton Keynes.
“I wonder if that can be looked at for women and families, for the wellbeing and bonding of the family,” said Cllr Bywater.
Liz Lees, the chief nurse at Bedfordshire Hospitals Foundation Trust, said the issue was at the top of the agenda.
“We have conversations around maternity visiting at least three times a week. it is a critical moment in a family’s life,” she said.
She revealed that Bedford’s coronavirus infection rate being higher than in Milton Keynes and Cambridge meant restrictions in the town have to be tighter.
The hospital only allowed partners to be with mums during established labour a few weeks ago.
Now they are looking at extending that this week to partners of all women in labour.
Liz Lees said that could be “hopefully Wednesday” and this would be assessed and they would look at moving to more postnatal visits as well.
She said, “It is a key point in everybody’s life and we want to strike a balance between the incidence in the local population and making sure that everybody’s safe, but also providing that opportunity for that support at that critical moment.”
She added that the whole issue is being “constantly reviewed”.
But Cllr Bywater said she appreciated that the infection rate in Bedford is going up but it was “quite a bit lower in July and August and the rules weren’t relaxed.”
The chief nurse said they had been looking at easing restrictions in the summer until the covid incidence increased.
“We’re constantly evaluating it,” she said.
“I’m sure progress will be made over the coming weeks, certainly with the introduction of birth partners during the whole of the labour experience for women.”
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter