pregant mask
© Getty Images / Daniel BalakovFILE PHOTO
Hospitals in France are requiring expectant mothers to wear face masks during childbirth, allegedly causing complications during labor. Now an activist group is leading a wave of angry backlash over the practice.

The anti-masked-birth campaigners and some doctors say that mothers are finding themselves unnecessarily stressed out and having trouble breathing, which can lead to weakness and an inability to push during labor.

There have been multiple instances of hospital staff threatening to refuse medical service to maskless women reported in the French media. Some mothers have revealed that they were forced to keep their face masks on even when they were struggling to breathe while giving birth.

"I had the feeling that I was suffocating, I was very hot, I was sweating profusely under my mask, I wasn't managing it," the Daily Mail reported one French mother as saying.

As a result of her stress, she said the doctor had to use forceps to pull out her son. The child was born with a bump on his head left by the instrument and with amniotic fluid in his lungs. The baby ended up having to be transferred to another hospital, because the one requiring masks didn't have adequate facilities to treat him.

"This was very traumatic for my partner and me. Before giving birth, we are taught to manage our breathing and so to be in this situation was very traumatic," the mother said.

Comment: In our warped world the authoritarians will simply make it part of the pre-natal training to force expectant mothers to practise giving birth in masks.

The group Stop aux Violences Obstétricales & Gynécologiques (or Stop Obstetrical & Gynecological Violence) argues that the childbirth mask requirement in some hospitals is potentially harmful. It launched a social media hashtag #StopAccouchementMasque (#StopMaskedBirth) to shed light on stories where the mask requirement caused unnecessary stress and complications for mothers and newborns.

The group's founder and spokesperson, Sonia Bisch, told France 24 that face masks can cause women to "suffocate, vomit, panic" during childbirth by obstructing air intake. It could also increase the chances of women suffering from postnatal depression and even post-traumatic stress disorder, Bisch said, basing it on her professional experience of talking to new mothers in distress.

Bisch and her campaign argue that since the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that people "should not wear masks when exercising" as it may "reduce the ability to breathe comfortably," requiring masks at childbirth is especially "nonsensical."

To allow mothers to give birth in comfort, the group recommends that only hospital staff use the masks and protective glasses. "It is up to healthcare professionals to protect themselves," Bisch said.

In France, it is up to each maternity facility whether to require face masks, and the group has already created a hospital map guide, describing which rules are in place in each of them.

In the UK, things work similarly to Bisch's concept - doctors and nurses have to protect themselves while patients do not have to mask up. In the US, women are also not required to wear masks in the delivery room.

According to the WHO, France has registered more than 700,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and around 32,000 deaths, making it one of the worst-hit European countries. Rising cases and hospitalizations prompted the government to impose further restrictions on social interactions and face mask mandates.