Some pregnant women in the U.K. have been forced to wear face masks during labour despite it being against government guidelines, a charity has revealed.
A survey conducted by the charity Pregnant Then Screwed found that one-fifth of the 936 women they interviewed in December were made to wear face coverings as they gave birth to prevent the risk of Covid-19 infection.
The research shows women were left struggling to breathe or experienced panic attacks while wearing the masks, which goes against the U.K. guidance published in July 2020 by the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
"Research that we did in December showed that just 53 per cent of women are feeling listened to in labour," said Joeli Brearley, CEO and founder of Pregnant Then Screwed. "When you overlay that with the fact that 50 per cent of women who are having C-sections are being told to wear a mask, and 10 per cent of those in natural labour, you're adding a literal communication barrier when birthing restrictions mean that some women are birthing alone.
"Women that we've spoken to have had asthma, they've felt dizzy, one woman even threw up in her mask during labour. This is completely avoidable. The guidance needs to be made clear and communicated to all pregnant women that they do not need to wear masks in labour."
Maria Booker, from the charity Birthrights, has insisted that being made to wear a face covering during childbirth is "completely inhumane" and has called for all maternity services to make the guidelines clear to staff.
A spokesperson for the NHS said: "Guidance to hospitals has been absolutely clear that women who are giving birth are exempt from wearing a face mask, and every hospital in England should be following this."