The National Maternity Hospital at Holles Street in Dublin has changed its visiting guidelines to allow the partner of a pregnant woman or a support person to attend most appointments.

Visiting for partners will be unrestricted for inpatient appointments between 8am and 9pm, as well as for when a woman is in labour and has been admitted to a bed.

There are also unrestricted partner visits to attend the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit and the anomaly scan (20-week scan).

The hospital is asking pregnant women to check in to their appointments alone, before "your partner or support will be invited to join you when you are called for your scan".

Visiting is also unrestricted to parents of babies in the neonatal unit at Holles St.

However, partners and support persons will not be allowed to attend appointments in the antenatal outpatients department "due to Government guidelines on social distancing" but exceptions will be facilitated "on compassionate grounds and on an individual basis".

For patients attending the Emergency Department at Holles St, partners will be permitted at consultations with the ED clinical team.

The Hospital has said that in keeping with social distancing guidelines, partners and support people are asked to remain bedside, and "may be asked to leave or wait before entering the ward if the unit is particularly busy at that time".

It has also said it cannot currently allow children to visit.

Yesterday, the Master of the Rotunda Maternity Hospital said restrictions at the hospital could be loosened if there was a higher uptake of Covid-19 vaccinations among patients and visitors.

Professor Fergal Malone urged pregnant women and their partners to get a vaccine, saying the high vaccination uptake in the general population was not reflected in maternity hospitals.

If vaccination rates could rise, he said, then it would be possible to ease restrictions.

Prof Malone said a new pathway will be in place from this week to allow partners accompany patients to the early pregnancy assessment unit and to the anomaly scan at 20 weeks.

In addition, he said, the Rotunda allows all patients around five to six hours of visiting each day, and eight or nine hours at the weekend, which exceeds the HSE guidelines of 30 minutes.

However, he said, that in certain parts of the hospital, in particular the old main building, there is no ventilation and there is not the physical space to allow large numbers of adults sit together safely in a confined space.