Masks during childbirth not compulsory in France

The government had been silent on the issues for months while a campaign group pressured them for action

10 November 2020
Many pregnant women who have had to give birth wearing a mask have reported problems, such as difficulties breathing and other medical complications
By Thomas Brent

The French government has clarified its position on women wearing masks during childbirth, saying it is “desirable but not mandatory.” It comes after months of silence on the issue during which a campaign group relayed several mothers’ horrible experiences after being forced to wear a mask during labour.

Stop aux Violences Obstétricales & Gynécologiques (Stop VOG) says that forcing women to wear masks during pregnancy as a precaution against Covid-19 can cause medical complications and post-natal depression.

The group has been publishing witness accounts of mothers’ traumatic experiences of giving birth wearing masks. The Connexion spoke to one new mother in October who had to wear a mask during childbirth and described it as “unimaginable”. 

'Unimaginable': French women criticise childbirth in masks

Stop VOG says that based on their survey which assessed half of France’s maternity wards, around 80% were imposing masks on women during childbirth. 

Gender equality minister Elisabeth Moreno has now affirmed the government position on the matter. 

“The wearing of a mask by women while giving birth is recommended in the presence of health workers, but it cannot be made compulsory in any case,” she stated in a press release also signed by health minister Olivier Véran and family minister Adrien Taquet on Monday (November 9). 

This is the same recommendation that the Collège National des Gynécologues et Obstétriciens Français gave in a protocol for maternity care published on September 30. 

The government stated in its press release it wanted to consult with the Haut Conseil de la Santé Publique before clarifying its stance. 

In the same press release, the government wrote that new rapid antigen Covid-19 tests could be used to enable healthcare workers to know if a woman is positive for the virus and “enable measures to be adapted”. 

In response to the government announcement, Stop VOG has called for maternity wards to be supplied with better equipment, such as FFP2 masks, which, unlike most masks, also protect the wearer from inhaling infectious water droplets. 

This will allow doctors and midwives to be protected from Covid-19 while women giving birth can remain unencumbered. 

The government has also backed allowing mothers to be accompanied by a partner during childbirth, even during caesarean sections.

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