Dads-to-be excluded from ultrasound scans

Rob Williams writes in the Guardian about the practice at Basildon hospital of excluding fathers to be from ultrasound scans. He suspect[s] that the policy to exclude men from the scanning room is rooted in a belief that men are not important to the process of bringing a baby into the world. Whilst I sympathise and think this policy creates more issues than it resolves, I suspect it's not that simple.

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The article publishes in full correspondence in response to a complaint about this policy, along with answers to a Freedom of Information Act request. Rob Williams complains that the Trust's claim that the policy is 'to protect technicians from violence' is not borne out when one looks at the statistics - only one incident of violence towards a sonographer in the two year period covered. But in fact, this is not what correspondence from the Trust says. It says that in part the policy results from very real concerns about 'the reactions of partners when they are in the scanning room'. It seems fairly clear to me that what is likely to be behind this is not a concern about direct aggression towards staff, but the risk of an adverse reaction towards the patient herself, particularly at dating scans where a woman may be caught out in a lie. We know that domestic violence often emerges or worsens when women fall pregnant and I suspect that this policy relates to the risk to women patients, and of course the risk that staff may be caught in the crossfire. And a woman in an abusive or controlling relationship may not have been able to prevent her partner from attending the appointment, or may be unable to voice her preference to attend the scan alone.

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That said, I don't think its a policy I support. I do think that it minimises the role of fathers and operates on a presumption that they will be disruptive or unsupportive. If we can manage to involve fathers routinely in the birthing process we should be able to make arrangements for dating scans to be carried out in a way which doesn't exclude dads, whilst safeguarding vulnerable women. If this means that staff need to be watchful, sensitive and adaptable so be it. It shouldn't result in women who wish to have their supportive partner with them being denied that support. Having experienced both the awful moment when the sonographer confirms that the baby has no heartbeat, and having gone through subsequent scans with my heart in my throat clutching on to my husbands hand for dear life, I cannot see that this policy is right. And allowing for the partner to be brought in after the initial scan does not solve this problem.

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We should not see all men as potential perpetrators. Violence against women is bound up with gender stereotypes and such a policy runs the risk of perpetuating them.
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Equally, the campaign which sought the information from the Trust seems to have been so focussed on rights and equality that it had a bit of a blind spot as to the very real issue that the Trust was quite legitimately trying to address.

Abortion Ads

Much outrage at the idea of abortion ads on telly apparently. Would it be churlish to point out that

1. Abortion is legal in this country, and

2. 76% of people believe such adverts should be permitted?

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I would have thought such ads will help to maximise awareness, giving women (and their partners) a fuller opportunity to explore and think through ALL of their options at the earliest opportunity and to ensure that a higher proportion of any abortions that are carried out take place earlier on in the pregnancy. I doubt there will be some subliminal message or hypnotic subtext that compels otherwise unwilling women to terminate their pregnancies. Abortion is a difficult topic and a regrettable outcome (even if sometimes its the 'right' outcome or the least worst option), but you can't eliminate free choice or prevent people and services from operating within the law.

Baby Choo Point Oh!

Baby 2.0 arrived on Sunday. Normal service will resume soon. In the meantime...

...Thanks to several of my clients who told me to be sure to make sure the new baby gave our first son a present when he arrived in the world. I was doubtful this would be very meaningful since our oldest is only 22 months. But I took their advice to see what happened: hidden in baby's blanket when he first met his big brother was a new choo choo (thank you ebay). I didn't really think he'd be old enough to register, but what d'you know? The next day he was trying to unfold the new baby's hands and saying 'oh no - choo' which we couldn't really translate, but it was only later on when he tried to peek inside the baby gro and said 'oh no, choo choo all gone' that we twigged just how much had registered with him. They really do miss nothing. Except the big stuff obviously  - while I laboured and delivered at home (puffing like the little engine that could), the 22 month old snored through the whole thing, just in the next room!!