A temporary extension to maternity leave will be considered by the Government after a petition was handed into the Dáil by new mothers.

The Uplift petition, which was signed by more than 25,000 people, calls for a three-month extension of maternity leave due to the Covid-19 pandemic for any woman whose leave is due to expire between the start of March and the end of September.

Some of the mothers at Leinster House described how hard it has been to have a new baby during the lockdown.

They spoke of the fear they had about going outside and the difficulties in accessing the normal sort of supports they would get, such as family visits and breastfeeding groups.

Tara McDarby, with her first baby four-month-old Callum, said her family do not live in the same county so they have not had the opportunity to meet him.

She said she felt panicked about health visits and was afraid going outside.

There are also concerns over what sort of childcare they will be able to get once creches reopen.

Paula Solan, with her third baby Quinn, said she had concerns about him that she did not have with her first two sons with regards to keeping him safe and healthy during the lockdown.

She said she hopes an extension to maternity leave would give mothers and families a "little bit of breathing space" to give them time to sort out childcare and creche positions, which she said are under pressure anyway.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith accepted the petition along with other TDs and Senators from parties including Sinn Féin, Labour, Social Democrats and Independents.

Deputy Smith said the cost of this measure would be €134m.

Later, in the Dáil during Taoiseach's questions, she said she would not accept the excuse of having to introduce primary legislation to make this change.

She told Leo Varadkar this would be a brave move to make.

The Taoiseach said he would give meaningful and full consideration to the petition and that he could see the benefit of extending maternity benefit, but he said it may require primary legislation and that could not be done without a properly constituted Seanad.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou MacDonald, who had earlier met the mothers and their babies outside Leinster House, also brought up the petition in the Dáil and urged Mr Varadkar to consider it, saying it was "plain common sense".