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Visitors on post-natal wards - a feminist issue?

(137 Posts)
JellySlice Fri 14-Feb-20 12:40:53

I have read so many threads posted by mums in post-natal wards where partners are allowed to stay overnight and excessive numbers of poorly-behaved visitors are allowed. The level of noise becomes disruptive, the lack of privacy is distressing and ridiculous demands are made of the midwives and auxiliaries.

Yet nobody is able to say or do anything about it. The midwives seem powerless to impose a standard of behaviour upon the visitors, or to evict those who abuse it. The mothers are reluctant to complain because they are sympathetic to the other women's need for companionship/love/help, but also why should they have to?

The reason I wonder whether this is a feminist issue is that the people suffering in this situation and struggling to take control of this situation are female (predominately female, in the case of the midwives).

Is 'Be Kind' socialisation backfiring on women again?

How can this be changed?

OP’s posts: |
ArranUpsideDown Fri 14-Feb-20 12:44:37

Didn't MN actually campaign to allow partners to do this?

KatharinaRosalie Fri 14-Feb-20 12:53:39

I'ts a feminist issue because maternity wards are woefully understaffed, and mothers who have just given birth or had CS are expected to take care of themselves and their newborns without sufficient assistance.

I remember a poster comparing her stay in the hopsital after a keyhole surgery for other reasons, and CS - in the first case she was not allowed to do anything, hot and cold running nurses everywhere, as much pain relief as she wanted etc. With CS, a much more serious procedure, she had to get up and get her own water and food, otherwise she would have starved. Because it's a maternity ward, it's not important.

magicrainbowbeans Fri 14-Feb-20 12:54:35

I was on my own for pregnancy birth and ever after so limited visitors, but remember listening to a man quite forcefully telling his wife she must try to breast feed and when that didn't work pump, despite midwife repeatedly saying her milk wasn't in yet and to wait, relax. All go on you must be able to, try again with the pump once the midwife left the room, as though she was doing something wrong. It was hideous. He happened to be well spoken white British, she was possibly Chinese. Its not just disruption that woman needed a break.

Goosefoot Fri 14-Feb-20 12:56:37

I don't think most women really want to be told their partners can't stay, so I don't think this is a straightforward issue of women being put upon. In fact for many years partners were not able to stay. Many people also thought his was important to have fathers become more involved with their babies from the beginning.

I do think it's interesting to see that some of the issues nursing staff initially had with these kinds of changes were legitimate.

The solution from my perspective has to be a move away from open wards. That's a big project though.

Barbarella1 Fri 14-Feb-20 13:00:48

Completely agree with you.

I said on another thread that I worked nights on a post natal years ago when it wasn’t allowed. On the rare occasion a member of staff allowed partners to stay, on the whole they were a pain in the arse. However in those days management backed the staff when they made visitors leave. Most visitors left without kicking up a fuss.

Is it a feminist issue? Yes it is. We are socialised to be kind and let’s face it, it wouldn’t be allowed on a ward where all the patients are male.

JellySlice Fri 14-Feb-20 13:01:25

Didn't MN actually campaign to allow partners to do this?

In an ideal world partners would stay, and would be considerate to both their partner and the other women. However it is not an ideal world and, as ever, the inconsiderate people spoil it for everyone else.

The problem is the ward staff's inability to control the situation. As KatharinaRosalie points out, maternity services are severely understaffed. They don't have the time to look after the women, let alone police visitors.

OP’s posts: |
Aesopfable Fri 14-Feb-20 13:03:24

I remember a couple arriving on my ward after midnight just after she had given birth. The partner was allowed to come up to the post natal ward with her but was expected to leave straight away. The fuss he made woke up everyone in my 6 bed bay and probably the other bays as well. He did leave but reappeared at 6:30am leaning on the buzzer to get into the ward waking everyone up again. There was a heated discussion with the midwife and then he was allowed in again! Totally selfish.

I also remember a lady who had had a CS. I agree she wasn’t looked after enough but without any partners on the ward other women could see this and she felt able to ask for help. We rallied round getting her food. Helping her reach her baby etc. It shouldn’t have needed to happen but it did and definitely wouldn’t have if we had partners and relatives with us.

Goosefoot Fri 14-Feb-20 13:05:33

Lack of staff is a reason many women want their partner there, though. They need someone to help them.

ErrolTheDragon Fri 14-Feb-20 13:07:25

I think it's a balancing act - on the one hand it's good for the dads to be involved from the off and supportive. And if the dad isn't present or willing then having a supportive person may benefit that mother. The problem is when there are multiple people, and/or placing demands on the staff rather than helping, and/or intruding on the peace or privacy of other mothers.

In an ideal world, there would be more staff - 'auxiliaries' to help with making sure the mums are comfortable as well as midwives. For now - no more than one supporter outside of visiting hours, and any of these who are troublesome should be given one warning and then ejected.

If anyone wants more than this - more space, food provided etc then they should go private. NHS hospitals aren't hotels.

ItsAllGoingToBeFine Fri 14-Feb-20 13:09:39

Didn't MN actually campaign to allow partners to do this?

They campaign against I think:

EuroMillionsWinner Fri 14-Feb-20 13:10:18

It'll never work because so many proclaim they absolutely need the man there at all hours (usually couched in terms of dad's are always there just to tend lovingly to their 'partners' and babies), he's a total saint (yet the Relationship boards are full of people whose bar is so low a flea could limbo on it and people who regularly procreate with weapons grade twats) and of course, staffing levels mean women are treated like less than dogs after giving birth.

KatharinaRosalie Fri 14-Feb-20 13:13:24

Also mentioned by a Mumsnetter on one of those threads - there is a new hospital being built in her area. Privare or semi-private rooms in all other departments except one, which keeps big open wards. Guess which?

SpokeTooSoon Fri 14-Feb-20 13:18:12

This is an issue that is posted about a lot on Mumsnet and people are in two opposing camps. You get a lot of women saying they can’t manage to be away from their husbands at such a vulnerable time (I agree it can make you feel that way), that it’s his baby too and he needs to bond early (which I think is rubbish). Part of it comes from lack of staff overnight and the expectation that partners will pick up the slack. This wouldn’t happen on any other ward of course.

Personally I don’t think partners should be allowed outside of visiting hours. For most - but not all - women their stay in hospital is fairly short and I think we should all be able to get through the separation for 24 hours. Our desire to have our partners with us shouldn’t trump other women’s need for privacy.

Just because you know your husband is lovely and respectful, doesn’t mean I will feel the same way, on the other side of a curtain with no underwear on bleeding and aching and leaking - sorry TMI but that’s the reality.

A lot of people are not respectful on wards and think nothing of a family of 10 trooping in to sit round a bedside all day cracking jokes and passing comment.

I was lucky in that I only had to go to a post-natal ward with one of my births and was only there overnight. I realise others’ experiences will have been different.

I wonder if a lot of the women who want their partners overnight are first-timers? Because for most of us it’s just not possible second or third time around because your partner needs to be at home with the other child/ren.

ArranUpsideDown Fri 14-Feb-20 13:19:06

They campaign against I think:

Thank you - I'm relieved. I know it comes up a lot in threads and thought I'd read that MN supported partners overnight. I'm pleased to be mistaken.

Mumdiva99 Fri 14-Feb-20 13:19:49

Having had a CS and not be told what help was available and not see staff during the night (I didn't know I could press buzzer to get baby passed to me while I was still unable to move etc etc) it would have been nice for Dad to stay. However, the other ladies were amazing and there was great helping each other (after the hideous night 1). But regrettably our wards are not designed with other guests in mind. And as not all women want - or can have - someone else to support them it becomes unfair to them. So unfortunately I fall into the camp that they shouldn't be allowed to stay. We should fund hospitals well enough that it isn't necessary.

Is it a feminist issue - no. Just a common sense issue.

Barbararara Fri 14-Feb-20 13:22:17

What would be an ideal situation though?

Years ago women stayed in bed for ten days, the babies slept in the nursery. But the separation of older small children from their mums was psychologically damaging, the separation of babies from their mums isn’t ideal. There was a subtle pressure not to breastfeed and the power and control resided with the ward staff.

When I gave birth, dads were rushed out, but there wasn’t enough staff to provide support for mums and babies, and what some of my friends who had caesareans struggled through was frankly barbaric.

And now we have men on maternity wards which is a disaster too.

I think we need to figure out what’s needed and work towards that, rather than trying to fix one bit and cause a problem elsewhere (as keeps happening)

So imo
We need funding for maternity care - we need to realise that this is something important that justifies spending money on.

We need maternity care approaches that centre power, control and care on MOTHERS. Mothers as people needing support, and care; and mothers as people providing support and care.

Maybe we need separate wards for those who choose to have partners stay, and those who prefer a single sex environment - and that choice should be supported.

Aureum Fri 14-Feb-20 13:23:17

I'ts a feminist issue because maternity wards are woefully understaffed
This. You can’t ban partners unless you’re prepared to replace them with more nurses who will offer the care that partners were providing. When you’ve just given birth and haven’t eaten for 48 hours, and the nurses won’t even make you a hot drink never mind fetch you some food (you have to wait seven hours for breakfast and if you pass out from hunger it’s tough) - well then you need a partner to look after you.

KatharinaRosalie Fri 14-Feb-20 13:26:27

If you have had any other hospital stays, for example due to not maternity- related surgeries, are you also expeted to bring your own staff, or find other patients who are able to help you?

SapphosRock Fri 14-Feb-20 13:26:53

It is a feminist issue as men being on the ward threaten the women's rights to privacy and dignity.

Interested what people think about mothers, sisters and female partners being on the ward? Is it men who are the issue or visitors in general?

I would prefer it to be a female only space but can see how it's not really enforceable.

EuroMillionsWinner Fri 14-Feb-20 13:30:50

well then you need a partner to look after you.

And if you don't have one, because plenty of people do not (their spouse has to stay with other children, the patient has had to access CLU hours away from home due to centralisation of consultant-led care), then you're stuffed.

Oh, yes, Katherine, that would be Glasgow. Brand new huge hospital, all rooms private en-suites, except maternity, of course.

ThinEndoftheWedge Fri 14-Feb-20 13:34:53

If there was space/ single rooms fine, but there isn’t.

Most people want their own partners but not anyone else’s.

In a busy ward, bleeding, sore, exhausted post partum - we need rest - not to listen / be disturbed by other men- who generally seem to over do it to feel included - not all - but many - which affects everyone else.

EuroMillionsWinner Fri 14-Feb-20 13:34:55

Maternity wards here are barbaric, patients who have had major surgery, whose legs are still numb from regional anaesthetic, who have had complicated instrumental deliveries, left to fetch their own water, with NO pain relief at all, no monitoring, to look after a newborn infant and share sleeping space and even a toilet with 4-8 random men on top of the patients and babies.

Yellowandpurple78 Fri 14-Feb-20 13:45:24

I have worked on postnatal wards. Things have changed over the last years 30-40 years. Midwives are met with horror when bedside curtains are opened during the day. When you try to do group discharge talks (rather than repeating the same information 6x with 6 different couples), it is met with disapproval. Women anxiously check their phones for when their husband returns from moving the car.

In an ideal world, beside curtains would be wide open all day. Midwives could clearly see the well-being of the women and babies, rather than relying entirely on a buzzer which is jarring and stressful for the whole ward. Some women would talk to each other and learn from each other. People would feed (breast or bottle) openly and not feel ashamed or embarrassed - and there wouldn’t be a load of husbands and visitors milling around the place.

Unfortunately the answer to all these demands will be a move away from ward bays to instead have postnatal ‘hotels’. This will just increase the workload of staff, as observation of potentially poorly mums and babies in private rooms is a lot more difficult. It also further alienates the nuclear family and perpetuates this idea that we are our own little islands, rather than encouraging friendships and support with other women early on. I think there is a feminist element, but also just this emerging attitude in society of people thinking they cannot cope.

Goosefoot Fri 14-Feb-20 13:58:58


That's an interesting observation. I think you are right, people have become much less social, much more focused on their own nuclear family.

I can see that an open ward might be quite nice, if it was fairly quiet. When I had my younger kids, being in a room alone was lonely, my husband was mostly with the older kids. (There are very few wards left in hospitals here.) There was a patient lounge but it wasn't used much, and that's the thing, I think it's really a wider move in society, and it's difficult to work against that in just one area.

I think I am wary to present a particular viewpoint on this as feminist though, because the fact is there is a lot of different feelings that women have about this, and I am not happy with the idea that feminism tells women how they should think about it. People who are feminists likely have a wide variety of views and it's going to be very personal for most, and I think it's extremely alienating to women when they see feminism as telling them how to weight things like the involvement of their partners with their newborns.

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