The Health Service Executive has said it is working with maternity units to help them comply with guidelines allowing partners to accompany pregnant women in certain circumstances.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry told RTÉ's Drivetime he is "hopeful of compliance in the next week or two".

The HSE earlier confirmed that not all of the country's 19 maternity units are allowing the recommended access to partners.

Seven of these units are only partially compliant with the guidelines permitting partners to accompany women with high risk pregnancies to routine visits.

Four of the units are only partially compliant allowing partners to accompany women presenting at emergency departments in the late stage of their pregnancies.

Just one maternity department is not permitting partners to accompany women who are attending the early pregnancy assessment unit.

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Speaking at this afternoon's HSE briefing, Dr Henry said he hoped all maternity units would be fully compliant within the coming week.

He said that all 19 maternity units were now fully compliant with the four original visitation guidelines, which include allowing partners to attend labour, the anomaly scan, neonatal units and to have at least a 30 minute daily post-natal visit.

Dr Henry later told RTÉ's Drivetime that he "would not equate eating in a restaurant with the risk posed by Delta in a maternity hospital".

He added: "We learned the hard way the impact of outbreaks in these settings, and we know that there is an additional risk to women in pregnancy."

Dr Peter McKenna, director of the HSE's National Women and Infants Health Programme, said yesterday that everyone working in maternity services "deeply regrets the restrictions that are placed on the partners of pregnant women".

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, he said everyone working in maternity services "deeply regrets the restrictions that are placed on the partners of pregnant women".

He said all hospital staff are urged to use their compassion in delicate circumstances.

The hospital environment is different to that of a restaurant or pub, he said, because a pregnant woman can choose not to enter a business premises but must enter a maternity hospital.

Dr McKenna also warned that the risk of Covid placentitis has not gone away and he would recommend that all pregnant women, and women of child bearing age, should avail of a coronavirus vaccine.

He said there have been six stillborn infants and one late miscarriage linked with Covid placentitis.

There have also been several "near misses" associated where the baby was found to be unwell and delivered before it died, while there was also a recent case of a woman who became very ill and her baby died.

This case is under investigation.