The partner of a new mother in Victoria can spend just two hours in hospital with their newborn under new government guidelines, but experts are calling for the decision to be reviewed.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos announced the changes to visitor rules on Wednesday in a bid to prevent the further spread of coronavirus across the state.
An expectant mother will be able to have her partner or support person with her for the labour and birth.
But afterwards, the partner or support person can only stay with her for two hours under new restrictions in force from Thursday.
That two-hour limit will also apply to each subsequent hospital visit.
Most other hospital visits also will be capped at one person per patient for one hour per day, with exceptions for parents with children in hospital and visitors of patients in palliative care.
“We are trying to strike a balance there between compassion and safety. We ask for Victorians’ understanding at this challenging time,” Ms Mikakos told reporters.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has called for the government to consider changing the rules in order to protect the mental health of new parents.
“There has necessarily, and appropriately, been an emphasis on the physical implications of the COVID-19 infection on the health of the community,” RANZCOG president Dr Vijay Roach said.
“However, we must remain aware that pregnancy and parenting are associated with anxiety and depression, and these new rules potentially place women, their partners and families at increased risk.”
Dr Roach said pregnancy and childbirth were an important time in a woman’s life, and it was important to safeguard their mental health while supporting parents’ connection with their newborns.
“The time after birth is a unique opportunity for family bonding with long term benefits for parents and their baby,” Dr Roach said.
“RANZCOG believes that the needs of new mothers can be met within existing frameworks, with heed to appropriate infection control and protection of healthcare workers.
“We call on the Victorian Government to urgently review these restrictions.”