Thursday, 15 August 2013

Thursdays Thing I Hate: Banning Men From Maternity Wards

Whenever I think back on my birth experience, my thoughts are mostly very positive.

As a very anxious person by nature, I had spent pretty much my entire pregnancy worrying about the birth and how I would handle it - and so the way it went was actually a very pleasant surprise. 

I was very well looked after by the hospital staff both before and after the birth, and there was very little cause for complaint during my 2 day stay there.

However, there was one rule in place which puzzled me - and which continues to puzzle me to this day.

The banning of men on Maternity wards.

At Liverpool Womens Hospital where I had my baby, and it seems at the vast majority of hospitals across the UK, men are not permitted to be on the maternity wards beyond the visiting hours allocated.

At my hospital in particular, there were set visiting hours for partners which were from 10 am - 7.30 pm.

Yes this is 9 and a half hours worth of visiting time, which some might consider ample. 

But in my opinion there should be no limitation on this.

I'm not saying that partners should be allowed to have beds on wards, or that they should be given any food or drink - there should be no cost involved in this at all. But why should a man be sent home from the side of his partner and child at the say so of the NHS? Why does he have less right to be there for the first few precious hours of his childs life because he didn't have the option of giving birth to it?

I personally, as I have already stated, am quite an anxious person by nature - I don't like going anywhere on my own and so the thought of being left alone in a strange environment was a lot for me to deal with.

I gave birth to my son via c section - so add to my usual anxiety the fact that I just undergone major surgery and was trying to care for a brand new baby for the first time in my life, its safe to say I was a bit of a nervous wreck!

I was so worried about being alone that I considered paying for a private room at the hospital, as I had been informed by staff that if the private rooms used for non-complicated natural deliveries were available - it was an option to pay a fee of £100 for my partner to be allowed to stay with me in one of them for the night.

However, we decided in the end that the £100 would be far better spent on much needed baby things and so at the end of the visiting hours, my partner left and I faced my first night alone.

I still had my catheter in, and although the feeling had returned to my legs I was obviously not yet allowed to stand up.

This first presented a problem when my baby needed feeding for the first time that night - he was in his little cot next to me, but the height of my bed and the style of his cot (non-dropside) meant that in my current semi-paralysed position I was unable to pick him up out of the cot.

Tyne in his very awkward non-dropside cot

For the first few hours I had to repeatedly press my buzzer to ask a midwife to pass me the baby, which made me feel like a nuisance and probably annoyed the midwife who I'm sure had far more important things to be getting on with.

After my catheter was eventually removed, I was then told to try and walk around - of course it was now the middle of the night and I was terrified at taking my first steps to the bathroom alone, but with my partner not there - I had no option.

Unfortunately I experienced a massive blood loss - there was a bit of concern among the staff and I was told to keep an eye on my clots and my loss as they may need to take me back to surgery if things didn't improve - to someone of my anxious nature, this was an absolute nightmare to hear and the fact that I was there alone only made me feel much much more anxious.

Thankfully things did calm down and no further action was needed.

Given the long day I'd had and the stress of the operation and the blood loss, I would have loved the chance to get some sleep - but between trying to care for my own baby (which meant having to get out of bed and hobble around to the cot to pick him up and put him back because it was impossible to lift him in and out from my bed - each pained step took at least 30 seconds so this was no mean feat!) - and having to put up with the cries of the other newborns on the ward and the constant buzzers going off in the nurses station which were VERY loud, I got no sleep at all.

Seeing my partner eventually walk through the door at 10 am the next morning was the biggest relief I have felt - and once he was there to look after the baby and pass me things I needed, I was finally able to snatch a bit of sleep in between the constant interruptions from various people wanting to check on various things.

Again, that night, my partner was sent on his way at 7.30 pm - and again I faced another night of no sleep, and no rest. 

Considering how much it is drummed into you following a c section that you should rest as much as possible,  it's a bit of a joke that you're left to fend for yourself with no support whatsoever until you're eventually allowed to go home.

I don't think it's only women who have gone through c sections who would appreciate having the support of their partner either - natural birth comes with its own set of problems directly afterwards, and I'm sure the pain can be just as difficult to deal with on your own.

I was told by staff that the reason men are banned from the wards after a certain time is for the privacy of other women on the ward - I'm sorry but this just doesn't make any sense to me.

Every bed comes with curtains that go right around it - on my ward, everybody had their curtains drawn most of the time anyway - if you want privacy, its easily achieved!
And yes, when you're walking to and from the bathroom in your nightie it can be a bit embarrassing - but that is the case all day long, during all visiting hours - what difference does it make whether men are only there during certain hours?! Women on these wards are undressed ALL day, not just at night!

Plus I don't really understand why men are banned after a certain time for the sake of respecting the privacy of the women on the ward, yet the only midwife on duty on my first night after giving birth was a man - so I had no option about him removing my catheter and administering a pessary - I realise this is a different matter but that midwife was still a man on the ward, and one who was seeing FAR more of my nether-regions than any visiting partners would have done!

And yes - there could be security issues, but that is the case with ANY visitor and even the patients themselves.

I have even heard stories of women in labour having to go through the first stages alone because they were unfortunate enough to go into labour at night, and so there partners were sent home until things progressed enough - I think this is truly disgusting, forcing a woman to go through something like that with only perfect strangers for company?!

I know that I personally could NOT have got through that without having a panic attack.
No matter how hard I try, I simply cannot come up with a valid reason why men shouldn't be allowed to stay with their partners on maternity wards whenever it suits them.

As long as they are staying within the confines of their partners own bed area and are not causing a disturbance - then what is the problem?!

What are your thoughts on men on maternity wards? As always, I'd love to hear from you!

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