Britain’s National Health Service recently unveiled a new policy where fathers can stay in maternity wards overnight, and their decision has ignited a firestorm of controversy.
In 2011, the Royal College of Midwives partnered with the Fatherhood Institute, the Department of Health, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists to release a report about the father’s involvement in postnatal care. They found “health and wellbeing benefits” when the father was involved in postnatal care, and that both the mother and the father generally wanted the father to be involved.
The report then laid out a plan on how local hospitals could better-involve fathers in postnatal care. One of the “best practice” examples they cited was the ‘Partners Staying Overnight’ pilot at Bath’s Royal United Hospital, which allowed partners to stay with the new mother and their baby overnight.
Since then, hospitals across the nation have begun following RUH’s example. And the debate about the issue has raged.
One of the strongest voices in favor is that of Dr. Irene Gafson, a current Teaching Fellow at the UCL Medical School who worked for many years as a trainee obstetrician. She says that her eyes were opened by her time working in an Australian hospital, where patients were happier and staff had “a real sense of job satisfaction.”
She noted that one of the main differences was that, in her Australian hospital, fathers and partners were allowed to stay with the mother overnight. In her opinion, the policy decreased the caregiving burden on hospital staff and made the new mothers feel less isolated and lonely.
While she believes that the ideal solution would be a separate room for each new family, she believes that allowing fathers to stay in maternity wards is a more realistic solution.
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