Mutt-ernity ward: Dog in delivery room raises hackles

Jan. 29, 2013 at 10:54 AM ET

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Man's best friend, mom's best Lamaze coach? One woman was allowed to bring her dog into the delivery room.

Most women giving birth want to have a trusted confidant by their sides, be it a spouse, mother, or best friend.

One woman in Bristol, England, recently took it one step further and had the company of man’s best friend, her dog Barney.

The woman requested that her Labrador, a certified therapy dog, be present in the maternity ward to provide a calming presence for her while she went through labor. 

Sarah Windfeld, head of midwifery at St. Michael’s Hospital in Bristol, told

“Barney is a certified Pets as Therapy (PAT) dog and, with his owner, regularly attends to patients in hospital.  PAT dogs are examined and passed on health, temperament, suitability and stability grounds and patients can benefit from their calming presence.  His owner made the request to us at St Michael’s Hospital for Barney to be present when she gave birth, as a therapy dog, not as a pet. Having first sought the approval of our infection control experts, we agreed to Barney sitting nearby in the delivery room.”

report on the story in the British tabloid, The Sun, citing anonymous sources, said, “Nurses and doctors were appalled that someone at the hospital had given the woman permission.” The newspaper added that some medics felt the delivery room hygiene was compromised and are “now worried that other women will be allowed to do the same because a precedent has been set.”

However, Windfeld said, “Thorough cleaning was done after the birth as is usual practice at the hospital.”

One  blogger at The Stir doesn’t know what all the fuss is about, and thinks dogs in the delivery room are an awesome idea. Writes Kiri Blakeley:  

“Oh well, boo hoo. The world would be a better place if dogs were allowed everywhere. Let 'em inside the cockpit of planes, I say. How about standing by during open heart surgery? Why not? I'm not a big dog person -- cats are my thing -- but you can't tell me dogs are any more or less germy than people… I think this idea should be expanded. What about a delivery ward at the Humane Society? You could pick out a new pet while dealing with those pesky contractions…”

Commenters on Blakeley’s post came down on both sides of the doggie-in-delivery-room divide.

As Doomy 234 writes:

“In the case of therapy dogs I say yes. But I don’t think just anyone should bring their pets in. They could get in the way, tear up important equipment, or (hopefully not) jump on you during labor or get upset by seeing their master straining to give birth and bite the doctor thinking that he/she is hurting her. I can see a lot going wrong for anything other than trained professional dogs.”

Facebook commenter Laura White writes:

“There isn't anything wrong with this. The Dog will love the baby. At least these people aren’t throwing the poor dog in a shelter cause a baby is coming ... so many people do .. that’s just stupid and ignorant. They are being responsible pet owners like we all should be.”

What do you think – should dogs be allowed in the delivery room? Tell us what you think on our TODAY Moms Facebook page.