Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

Birth partner restrictions

Email template 1: For women and birthing people who are currently pregnant and facing restrictions

  1. Copy and paste the below text into an email and change all of the sections in [black italics] to information that is specific to you and your pregnancy.
  2. Find the Patient Advice Liaison Service (PALS) email address for your local Trust/hospital here.
  3. CC Birthrights into your email! Send your completed email to your local PALS service and CC in Birthrights at: action@birthrights.org.uk

If you’re sharing details of your challenge on social media, tag @birthrightsorg!

What happens next?

It might take PALS a few weeks to respond to your challenge and depending on the complexity of your specific case, it could take longer than that.

If the Trust/hospital is still refusing your request to have a partner with you after you’ve used our template then we’re here to help and you can contact our Advice team for guidance and assistance on how to proceed further. Alternatively, you can contact a legal firm to advocate on your behalf but this will cost you money.

We want to hear from you!

Please let us know if and when you hear back from your Trust after using our templates, regardless of the outcome. Your responses will help inform future work in this area and could help us drive meaningful change.

Sign up to our newsletter for updates on this campaign, as well as other campaigns in the future.

Dear Head of Midwifery,

My name is [xxx], my date of birth is [xxx] and my NHS number is [xxx]. I am writing to you as I am very concerned about the restrictions that may be put on my birth partner(s) [during my labour/postnatally]. It is making me feel [xxx] about coming into the hospital/birthing unit/MLU to give birth.

I am aware from Birthrights that I have a right under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – the right to private and family life. This includes the right to have my partner with me as I go through labour and give birth. I understand I also have the right to have my partner support me and [my/our] [newborn baby/babies] in the initial hours and days postnatally. I understand that this right can be restricted by a public body, such as an NHS Trust, but only when the restriction is lawful, necessary, and proportionate. I am also aware that the ECHR is part of UK law via the Human Rights Act 1998 which places duties on all public bodies, including NHS Trusts and Health boards, to respect and protect people’s human rights. I am aware that NHS Trusts need to be clear that any restriction on birth partners being present at any stage of antenatal, labour, and postnatal care, is necessary for evidence-based reasons to protect public health, and is proportionate, in my circumstances, to the goal that the restriction may be designed to meet.

I know that NICE Guideline 194 “Postnatal care” and Care Quality Commission Regulation 9A “Visiting and accompanying in care homes, hospitals and hospices” both require English Trusts to take necessary measures to make sure they respect the right of women and birthing people to receive visits and to be accompanied, in line with their needs. [You may wish to remove this section if you are living in Wales, Scotland, North Ireland.]

I have been told [include what you have been told about the restrictions] about birth partner restrictions by [include where did you find out about the restrictions]. This is a significant issue for me because [include reasons here that are specific to you e.g. I speak English as an additional language / I experience systemic racism because of my skin colour/ I am a survivor of trauma / I live with a mental health condition / I live with a disability / I am having a caesarean birth / I will be giving birth to multiple babies]. If I do not have my birth partner with me during labour/postnatally I am worried that [include here ways you feel not having your birth partner present may affect you and/or your baby/ies].

I am particularly concerned about staffing on the [early pregnancy/induction/postnatal] ward, as I know that the NHS is currently estimated to be short of 2500 midwives and that this Trust has recently been rated [include here the rate of your Trust] by the CQC.

I would like to ask the following questions to help me better understand the restrictions to birth partners and how this may impact me going forward.

  1. When was the policy on birth partners on partners created?
  2. When was the policy on birth partners last reviewed?
  3. When will the policy on birth partners be reviewed next?
  4. What is the evidence base and rationale underpinning the policy on birth partners?
  5. Please share most recent risk assessment underpinning the rationale including the clinical benefits to a pregnant person of having a known and trusted birth partner them.
  6. What has the level of staff/service user voice involvement has there been in reviewing and updating the policy, and when has this taken place?
  7. How are you justifying this as a proportionate restriction on my rights under Article 8 of the ECHR?
  8. What is your process for considering exceptions on a case by case basis?

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. I would appreciate a response to my concerns within [7-28 days – you can edit the length of time you would like a response here depending on how pregnant you are/how urgent it is].

Kind regards,

[Your name]