Pregnant women in Alberta's maternity wards will be allowed just one designated support person, Alberta Health Services says, as the province grapples with more than 20,000 active COVID-19 cases.
The change is being implemented over the next four days throughout the province.
The adjustments were necessary to protect the health and safety of patients and staff, AHS said in a series of tweets.
COVID-19, particularly the Delta variant, is highly infectious, and pregnant women are at a higher risk of severe outcomes.
"We know the importance of designated support during this time, and we understand how difficult this decision is for all involved. This decision was not made lightly," an AHS spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
Calgary midwife Kimberley Schmidt of Aurora Midwifery says it's heartbreaking to see the pandemic's escalation limiting the number of support people an expecting mother can have in the maternity ward.
"Having your support team around you gives you that security blanket to help you get through the unknown," she says.
Schmidt says the decision could mean labouring mothers will be forced to make difficult decisions about who to have in the room.
"It's frustrating because we know that women need support in labour, and sometimes they're being forced to choose between their significant other, who may not be the most skilled person to provide them with support, … and a doula, who is a trained support person," she says.
AHS says exceptional circumstances and requests made by patients for two designated support persons in the maternity unit will be considered on a case-by-case basis.