It’s hard to get one’s head round .GOV’s policy on the father’s participation and attendance to scans, let alone birth itself.

Other than the obvious and immediate adversity caused to both partners, the list of possible direct and indirect ramifications are as long as my arm – some of which I have paraphrased non-scientifically below.

  • Physical, psychological and emotional issues for both the mother and baby’s health without the partner’s support during both pregnancy and birth
  • Psychological and emotional issues for the fathers missing out on a seminal moment in family life
  • It’s seldom all sunshine and rainbows – there is typically good and bad news delivered in antenatal appointments and scans – and support is paramount
  • Without a partner present from the outset, there can be longer, more complicated births (e.g. the reduced amounts of oxytocin and endorphins produced by reassurance and physical touch from partners could mean adrenaline spikes that reduce contractions and slow down labour), leading to more healthcare and a longer recovery needed after birth
  • Increase in stillbirths due to disrupted antenatal care
  • Increase in PTSD, postnatal depression and postnatal issues
  • Two people are more likely to remember everything from an appointment or if shown how to do something, let alone the issue of witnessing how advice is administered
  • During labour there are potential issue of consent if the partner is absent and the labouring woman is incapacitated
  • Risk of father missing the birth and logistical issues if partners are turned away to begin with based on imperfect timing of arrival at the hospital and aren’t kept informed about the progress of labour and when they can return to a hospital, especially if they live far away

It is apparent that many practitioners working in hospitals would happily welcome partners in for the duration of labour and birth, and are advocates for doing so, but are tripped up by inconsistencies and hamstrung by bureaucracy and fear of the ramifications of not following orders of people higher up the ladder who would love to come down on someone trying to apply rationality and empathy where it is most needed.

In my view, this is part of a wider problem of blunt tools, inflexibility and a failure to give decision-making powers to those dealing with problems and inconsistencies on the ground.

Covid testing being a related case in point – where there is capacity (or lack of capacity) at testing locations around the country to run tests, nurses and doctors are stripped of discretion to decide about how to address people showing up to be tested. They are seemingly either obligated to test people with appointments, regardless of whether they would do so otherwise, or are reluctantly turning people away who are clearly in need of a test in order to follow policy and procedures that are linked to a malfunctioning system.

Evidently we are not mobilised as a nation to take collective or individual decisions that are necessary in a crisis, even if they involve departing from blunt policies or procedures, which frankly should not have been in place to begin with.

A lot of policy mistakes could have been resolved sooner or avoided with foresight. Are our out of touch career politicians best placed to manage the current situation?

I don’t think so.

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