Fathers-to-be can now stay overnight at West Suffolk Hospital’s maternity ward

Newborn baby

Newborn baby - Credit: PA

Expectant fathers can now be on hand to comfort their partners during early labour in a move to reduce stress and anxiety for mums-to-be.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Photograph Simon Parker

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

The change has come after a Department of Health policy change, which is aimed at making birth less stressful for both mothers and fathers and keeping both together throughout labour.

The policy is being introduced on ward F11, the maternity ward. To facilitate the changes, the ward has been separated into postnatal and antenatal beds.

Men can now stay overnight on the antenatal side only, which cares for women who are being induced, experiencing problems with their pregnancy or are in early labour and cannot manage at home.

During birth couples are moved to the labour suites, which already allows expecting fathers to stay at their partner’s side for as long as it takes.

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Patricia Davis, head of midwifery at the hospital, said: “We have introduced this new policy after receiving an increasing number of requests for partners to stay overnight to support women who are being induced.

“As well as reducing stress and anxiety in the mother-to-be, we hope the initiative will also encourage family bonding while helping fathers to get actively involved in the birth of their child.

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“We are always looking for ways to further improve the experience which women have while giving birth at the hospital, and hope that this new initiative will make a big difference by providing extra support at an important time.”

The policy change is based on research that showed extra support can help keep women relaxed during early labour, making them more able to deal with contractions until they move into active labour.

A spokeswoman for the hospital said: “It is part of a drive by the Department of Health. The reason why it had not been already introduced is because we did not have the facilities.

“We had to create male toilets and to reorganise the ward to separate postnatal and antenatal beds.

“The ward is now in two sections, meaning there aren’t men hanging around at all times on the postnatal side, but fathers can stay with their partners from the moment they are induced until the birth.

“Fathers have always been allowed to stay in the labour suite.”

One person is allowed to stay with each woman, and will be offered a reclining chair, pillow and blanket alongside the bed.

The shift towards more involvement of both parents is also supported by the Royal College of Midwives, who highlight the role it can play in the health and wellbeing of the child and the parents both during birth and after.

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