Advocates say women have been forced to wear masks during labour despite provincial guidelines

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Should mothers be forced to wear a mask during labour? Maternity advocates say absolutely not.

A coalition of maternity organizations signed a joint letter advocating that hospitals allow mothers in labour to give birth without wearing a mask. Meanwhile, a petition has garnered more than 2,800 signatures demanding women reserve the right to remove their masks during labour.

But, the province does not require mothers giving birth to wear a mask in hospital unless they have tested positive for COVID-19. However, masks are recommended, and hospitals may request their patients wear them.

CHU de Quebec spokesperson Lindsay Jacques says the hospital recommends women wear masks while giving birth, but they can be removed if they become uncomfortable.

“We are very flexible. We ask mothers to wear the mask, but if she can’t stand it, she takes it off,” said Jacques. “We find arrangements.”

The MUHC has a similar policy, according to a statement provided to CTV News.

But advocates say that’s not always the case in some hospitals, and experiences can vary between patients and staff members.

Camille Maheu, Vice President of the Quebec Association of Doulas, says she has received complaints from mothers who say they were forced to wear a mask during labour.

Maheau’s organization is one of the undersigned organization on the letter, that warns that the fear of being required to wear a mask during birth “has led many people to consider giving birth without assistance for fear of going to hospital.”

“I understand the instinct to protect the staff,” she said. “But the risk is not with pregnant people at the moment.”

Advocates say wearing a mask can make it more difficult to have a natural birth.

“It creates greater discomfort for the mother,” said Sophie Mederi, spokesperson for Regroupement Naissances Respectées. “Increases in stress make the need for interventions more likely, as contractions become more intense.”

While a recent study found that mask wearing does not affect breathing during exercise, Maheu said they can still make a big difference during labour.

“You have a shortage of breath when you’re wearing the mask,” she said. “It certainly has an intellectual and emotional impact. That’s what we’re concerned about.”

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