Protect Rights of Women In Ontario to a Support Person During Labour, Birth & Postpartum

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Across Ontario, Canada, and the world, pregnant women are facing the fear, anxiety, and often the reality of giving birth alone during the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

We know that the World Health Organization already recommends that a woman have a support person present during labour, birth, and postpartum. These support people are not visitors, they are essential and critical in the health and well-being of the mother and baby. A support person is often the one to call the nurse’s and doctor’s attention to medical issues that can be life saving. Dr. Armson, President of the SOGC was quoted on saying that “depriving a mother of any support in labour has a lot of impact.” Canada Public Health notes “Support for women during active labour and birth… reduces the use of medications and interventions”. Key recommendations include “Women have supportive care involving the continuous physical presence of a caregiver during active labour and birth”. Ontario’s Prenatal Education Centre notes that having a support person allows women to “cope better with pain, use medications less often, need less medical interventions, have a shorter labour, etc.” The risks of not having a support person include increased need of medical intervention, increased prenatal and postnatal anxiety and depression, increased complications during labour and birth, and an overwhelmed and overburdened labour and delivery unit. And in a worst case, life-and-death situation, mothers could be facing that alone.

In New York, after several hospitals ban the right to a support person, a petition with over 600,000 supporters prompted Governor Cuomo to act immediately and issue an executive order that hospitals must allow a support person. “In no hospital in New York will a woman be forced to be alone when she gives birth,” says Governor Andrew Cuomo. “Not now, not ever.”

Now, this issue is hitting home in Canada with Quebec’s first hospital, Jewish General Hospital, banning a support person. In Ontario, support is currently limited to one person. In many hospitals they have to leave as soon as the baby is born, leaving mother and baby alone during those critical first few hours. A mother may not even be able to physically reach or pick up their crying newborn to help them because a nurse isn’t available and their partner has been forced to leave. Let’s not let this get worse, or wait before support persons are banned to take action!

In a recent Globe and Mail article, Jennifer Blake, CEO of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada said that restrictions in Ontario may become stricter and that facilities will have to decide on whether women can still have a support person. 

No woman should ever have to give birth alone! Please let’s come together proactively and ensure this never gets enforced. Please sign this petition, share it with friends and family, send it to your local media, your doctor, your hospital, and your government officials. 

It is our right to have a support person for the duration of our stay including labour, delivery and postpartum. Help us protect this right! 

We are asking for: protected rights to have a support person present for the duration of our stay in labour, birth, and postpartum regardless of type of delivery.

For a country that values Mental Health, how is post-partum mental health being dismissed? We need to protect these newborns but we also need to protect mothers and not separate them from their support system. 

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