UK woman has baby in hospital with ‘birth dog’ by her side

Allowing women to give birth in hospital with their pet dog by their side could ease their anxiety, one of the first women to use a “birth dog” has said.

Charlotte Beard, 24, who suffers from non-epileptic seizures, was supported through her 50-hour labour by her aid pet Flump, who is trained to detect seizures before they happen.The fluffy-haired Maltese was prepared for the birth by being played audio tracks of babies crying at home and being introduced to staff at the maternity ward in Poole hospital.

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“I would say you can’t really do a practice run,” Beard joked. “He was visiting the maternity hospital on a very regular basis, getting to know staff, getting to know the different rooms and the setups. Even things like the different equipment that was going to be used, he would see that used on a regular basis.”Flump, two, attended every scan and every appointment alongside Beard.

It is a legal requirement that assistance dogs are allowed into hospitals, but Beard said a lot of hospitals were not aware of this.

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“It would have caused high levels of anxiety if Flump was not there,” she said. “I would have certainly been more concerned about my safety.

“I am not suggesting that if I were to have a seizure, staff would not have been able to look after me. But no staff member can detect beforehand whether you are going to have a seizure or not. That is something that Flump can do that nobody else can, and it gives them such valuable time to make sure that I am safe and have the right support in place before it happens. Prevention is always much better than treatment.”

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Beard gave birth to her son Alfie, weighing 6lb 10oz, after two days with Flump. Her partner and full-time carer, Ash Phoenix, 29, was present.

Beard, a former wildlife rehabilitator who had to stop work due to her health, said Flump sat patiently at the end of the bed during the birth and then took in his stride the following days spent in the maternity ward.

“We would regularly hear quite distressing noises and he was absolutely fantastic,” she said. “He slept through [a] lot of other people’s labours.”

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Beard said she was not sure whether she was the first woman in the UK to have an assistance pet present during birth, but the hospital where Alfie was born had certainly never allowed it before. Staff had to do lots of research and set up risk assessments before Flump could attend, she said.

The idea of having a dog present had been put to Beard, who had studied animal behaviour and training, by a doctor. It was thought that having a dog at her side might give her more confidence. Beard had had three miscarriages previously and worried about having traumatic memories on her return to hospital.

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Beard got Flump at 10 weeks and has trained him since then. “From a human standpoint I cannot help but think how lovely it is that Flump was there. He was one of the first to see Alfie,” Beard said.

“Obviously hormones play a great part in it. Being present there from the birth and meeting Alfie within moments of him being born, whether it has increased the bond or not, it was such a lovely experience for everyone. Flump was absolutely besotted with Alfie from the moment he first saw him.”