A first-time mum is distraught after being forced to give birth without her partner by her side at Auckland City Hospital due to them both testing positive for Covid-19.
"It was very upsetting and something that will probably affect me for a long time, if not the rest of my life," Courtney Seddon, who gave birth to her baby girl on Friday, told the Herald.
Auckland DHB director of Midwifery Deb Pittam said they were sorry to hear of Seddon's experience at such a special time for her and her whānau and encouraged her to contact them directly with her concerns.
However, based on clinical recommendations, Pittam said, to keep everyone safe in their operating theatres, usually Covid-19 positive birthing partners were unable to accompany māmā into theatre for a caesarean section birth.
Last week, an Auckland obstetrician told the Herald that the biggest fear they were hearing from pregnant women was that they would have to give birth without their partner if they became infected. Dr Sarah Corbett said at most hospitals that wasn't true.
However, for Seddon that fear turned out to be a reality.
The 28-year-old took a RAT last Thursday as a precaution before she was scheduled for a caesarean section at Auckland City Hospital that day due her baby being in the breech position.
Initially, she returned a negative result but then she started to get a sore throat so tested again and it was positive.
She immediately rang her private obstetrician who informed her she could no longer be able to stay at the birthing unit where she planned to stay for at least three nights after the birth and would instead be isolated in the hospital's Covid ward.
Seddon said she was also told her partner Carl could not be present during the birth.
"What was supposed to be the happiest day of my life, I had to experience it alone," Seddon said.
She said she was told by her obstetrician that the nurses would set up a video call so her partner could still see and talk to her during the birth.
However, that didn't happen either. She said when she got into the operating room her obstetrician had forgotten all about it and said they would need an extra nurse to hold the phone, which they didn't have.
Auckland DHB told the Herald they were sorry for this and were looking into what happened.
"We do try to facilitate an electronic option for partners who are unable to be in theatre for births because of Covid-19, but there are times when this may not be possible because of availability of staff or technology," Pittam said.
Seddon said she thought it was wrong and if anything births and deaths should be an exception to all Covid restrictions.
"She was our first baby. You dream of having that first experience together [...] I just remember at one point staring at the ceiling feeling overwhelmed and shocked because you don't know what to expect," she said.
Despite having to give birth without her partner, she and baby Thea Elizabeth are healthy. They were reunited with dad in the Covid ward where he slept on the floor for the first two nights.
As her partner wasn't expecting to be stuck in the Covid ward, he didn't have an overnight bag.
"Somehow my mum-in-law managed to get in without doing RAT test or being asked any screening questions," Seddon said.
She said it seemed like even the staff were confused by the rules.
Pittam said the DHB acknowledged not having a support person with them at birth would have an impact on the birthing experience for māmā and whānau.
"We aim to keep hapū māmā having a caesarean connected with their whānau as much as possible; in-person on the ward before and after birth, and wherever possible, via video call during the caesarean section."
The DHB had recently opened a dedicated Covid ward in their Women's Health department which allowed Covid positive birthing partners to stay with māmā and pēpi for the postnatal stay if they wished.
She said they understood birthing with Covid may be a concern for hapū māmā and whānau.
"We want to assure people that coming to the hospital is safe for all hapū māmā and we strongly recommend that anyone needing care presents to the hospital as usual and contacts either the hospital or their Lead Maternity Carer if they have any questions."