Politics

Hundreds Of Women Forced To Wear Face Masks During Labour

“I was gasping for air. I felt completely suffocated,” says Natalie Titherington, 29, from Oldham, who was forced to wear a face mask while she have birth to her daughter last December.

“I’m never going to be able to forget the feeling of not being able to breathe, and the fear and panic I felt while wearing a mask.”

Guidance from the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says women shouldn’t be asked to wear any kind of facial covering during childbirth – whether a vaginal labour or caesarean birth – because of the risk of harm and complications.

But a new report by BBC News and the charity Pregnant Then Screwed has found that hundreds of women in the UK were made to wear a face mask while giving birth last year.

Out of 936 women surveyed who gave birth during December 2020, 160 women said they were told to wear a face mask during labour.

Natalie Titherington with her daughter, who was born in December 2020. 

Titherington says she was made to wear a face mask while she was in advanced labour, around 8cm dilated and having regular and very painful contractions.

“Someone put the mask on me and I said ‘you can’t be serious’, and she replied ‘yes’, and then I remember having a contraction,” she recalls. “My body was already in a state of distress, and I tried to remove the mask at one point, but I was told I had to put it back on.”

She needed an emergency caesarean and was forced to wear the mask during the entire surgery.

Titherington has three children and this was her seventh pregnancy, but she tells HuffPost UK giving birth to her youngest daughter was the most terrifying experience of her life. She’s been unable to wear a face mask since, because even the sight of them is triggering.

“Seeing a mask reminds me of labour and the suffocation I endured,” says Titherington, who’s now exempt from wearing a mask. “The panic is something that still stays with me, it is something that flashes back as the worst fear I have been through.”




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