New and expectant fathers treating maternity units “like hotels” are making mothers uncomfortable and risking patient safety, midwives have complained.
Staff have raised concern with NHS bosses that the current policy of encouraging men to be present on wards is putting women off breastfeeding.
As well as making women self-conscious, men are getting in the way of emergency buzzers, cluttering corridors by sleeping on floors, as well as demanding hospital meals, according to midwives at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
Local union leaders are calling for hospitals to provide separate rooms for couples.
Last night the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) said that national health chiefs had not properly thought through the space implications when they adopted a policy of encouraging men to be present on maternity wards five years ago.
One ERI midwife said: "It's a fire hazard because you have no idea how many people are on the ward at once.
"There are women on the ward who are uncomfortable and too embarrassed to get changed or breastfeed because of the amount of visitors there staying over and their sleep is being disrupted.
"Childbirth and postnatal period should be about women and babies and we're having to bend over backwards for men treating it like a hotel."
Maternity workers also cited other health and safety concerns including infection control.
Dr Mary Ross-Davie, from the RCM, said: “It has been well established practice in maternity units all over the UK and in other parts of Scotland for partners and fathers to be able to stay on wards for some years.
“After some teething problems, the feedback we have heard in other areas has generally been positive – staff often find the presence of partners a helpful addition in supporting new mothers.
“However, the physical space available in some wards does make have a large number of additional people staying in the area than the number for which it was originally designed difficult on occasion."