Bereaved mother backs campaign to lift maternity hospital restrictions

Five of the country's 19 maternity units are unable to follow HSE policy of having partners at the 20-week scan, labour and birth
Bereaved mother backs campaign to lift maternity hospital restrictions

Anne Marie Perry with partner Brian Emmet and their oldest son Louie. They tragically lost their baby Spencer last May.

The HSE has advised maternity hospitals that partners should be allowed to attend all stages of labour as Covid-19 cases continue to decrease nationally.

This comes as protests continue and women share how visiting restrictions impacted their families.

Anne-Marie Perry and Brian Emmet tragically lost their baby Spencer last May. She has been saddened to see some restrictions still keep parents apart.

Ms Perry was 24 weeks' pregnant when she was admitted to the National Maternity Hospital at short notice for health reasons. 

"After every scan, I would have to ring Brian. Then just go back into the room and be on my own with my own thoughts, and Googling, and praying everything would be OK,” she said.

It was particularly challenging doing video calls with their four-year-old son Louie, she said.

Six days later, she was given an emergency caesarean section. Only then was her husband able to come in.

She said: “He saw Spencer on the day I was sectioned for a few minutes, as Spencer was rushed off to NICU (neonatal intensive care).” 

Brien Emmet with newborn Spencer before his death in May 2020.
Brien Emmet with newborn Spencer before his death in May 2020.

Their baby lived for seven days, all in hospital. Due to restrictions, they could only see him separately for most of that time or use the hospital’s Angel App.

Ms Perry said: “We were both with Spencer on the day he passed away, for the whole day. Mentally, physically and emotionally it was so tough. I have enormous guilt about not being with him all the time.” 

The family is now fundraising for the hospital, and she expressed huge gratitude to staff who did their best for Spencer.

Restrictions at the hospital have now eased. 

A spokesperson for the hospital said, “We wish to extend our deepest condolences to Anne Marie and her family. We are very aware that the imposition of visitor restrictions added to the distress of parents, especially those whose babies spent time in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit."

Five of the 19 maternity units are currently unable to follow the new HSE policy of having partners at the 20-week scan, labour and birth, they reported to the HSE and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly.

Chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said the new guidance says partners can be present from induction onwards. 

"It is great we are in this position now that maternity units are safer than they were in January," he said.

Anne Marie Perry expressed huge gratitude to staff who did their best for Spencer.
Anne Marie Perry expressed huge gratitude to staff who did their best for Spencer.

But Professor John Higgins, clinical director for Ireland South Women and Infants Directorate has said pregnant women are still at risk from Covid-19.

Prof Higgins, an obstetrician at Cork University Maternity Hospital, said restrictions are gradually easing but they are designed to protect women.

He told RTÉ: “Since Monday, our work has been dominated by Covid-19. But our staff are completely dedicated to the mother, her partner and the whole experience.” 

Protests organised by advocacy group AIMS Ireland and the Irish Birth Movement continue this week. 

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