Expectant mothers could find themselves sharing the birthing pool with their baby’s father during childbirth, according to a new scheme that would revolutionise maternity wards.
In efforts to make dads more involved in their child’s birth, a new £25 million Government plan is suggesting the NHS installs double beds and larger birthing pools to give men the chance to share the experience with the mother.
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As well as offering more inclusive sleeping arrangements, the new scheme also stresses the importance of adding increased sensitivity to individual situations - such as ensuring women who have lost babies are not put on wards with newborns.
Health minister Dan Poulter explained that the drive is aimed at supporting couples through the life shift of having a baby and to empower men to be part of the changes.
"The period after a baby is born is clearly a very joyous time but it is also a very stressful time – relationships are most likely to break up in the year after a baby,” said Dr Poulter.
But he insisted that it was important to consult women before bringing in the changes, to determine what they wanted from maternity care.
And despite sounding a huge sum, £25 million is actually quite a small amount of the annual £2.5 billion budget for maternity services, leading to criticism that the money will make little difference or puts too much of a strain on an already squeezed NHS. The proposals also come at the same time Britain faces its biggest baby boom since the 1970s, with midwives already warning the government of the strain on services.
The current focus on the role dads play in the early stages of their child’s lives follows on from the move to extend paternity leave rights earlier this year.
New dads now have rights to share up to 26 weeks of leave with their partners with an education programmed launched by the Royal College of Midwives in 2011 helping men understand what their partners go through during pregnancy, birth and immediately after.
The scheme to have dads sleeping over on the maternity ward was first piloted in 2010 at Bath Hospital.
Called Partners Staying Overnight, it has since became permanent in the maternity ward after good feedback from families who appreciated new dads being able to sleep over with their partners.
But there has been heavy criticism to the idea. Critics have suggested that mums need time alone with their newborns to bond, and not everyone will be comfortable having men on the ward overnight.
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