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“Obstetrical Violence”: How women are being traumatized by COVID policies on childbirth

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As a first time mom, Kate Wand wants to make the most informed decisions when it comes to the health and well-being of herself and her soon-to-be-born baby. In the wake of sweeping COVID-19 policies affecting every aspect of pregnant women's healthcare, Kate has gone down a long and winding rabbit hole that has taken her research far beyond the basics.

Due to perceived fears of COVID-19 and broad hospital policies seemingly aimed at workplace safety while disregarding ethics, creating a birth plan now means researching indiscriminate masking, having to choose one support person, readying yourself for an invasive and questionable PCR test to be performed on your newborn and upholding rigorous sterilization before, during and after key bonding moments with your newborn baby.

After extensive research into the above, Kate remains shocked by what she has found.

In this interview, we discuss how hospital policies these days seem to be based on dogma and perceived fears around COVID transmissibility, rather than actual facts and data. Kate was so strongly compelled by her findings, and the experiences of other women giving birth under these sweeping COVID restrictions, that she wrote a well-sourced essay about the topic titled “Obstetrical Violence.”

Despite her continued efforts, Kate has been met with deflection and lack of accountability when requesting data to back up the seemingly hyper-sensationalized approach to the indiscriminate masking of healthy labouring women, specifically.

She has asked her care team and local hospital if they can confirm or deny some of the research she has found, such as this study by the Journal of the American Medical Association that found no mom-to-baby transmission of SARS-CoV-2... in a study of 64 pregnant women with confirmed COVID.

And urged them to learn from France’s mistakes, where their mask policy led to extreme trauma and adverse outcomes for mothers and babies, to the point that French hospitals were told that they can’t force women to wear masks during childbirth.

The Ontario Ministry of Health published COVID-19 Guidance: Labour, Delivery and Newborn Care in April 2020. The document lays out policies and procedures for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients, but hospitals are treating everyone as sick until proven healthy — applying these protocols to everyone, indiscriminately.

Kate stresses the need for real analysis of updated data to review these harmful policies. She wants to see health policy reflect an individualized and ethical approach — one that does not disproportionately favour the real or imagined protection of healthcare workers over the health and well-being of mothers and newborns.

She wants to give birth and subsequently bond with her new baby peacefully, with dignity and respect. Is that too much to ask?

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