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Reunion Island’s Birthing Centre (MaNaO) : Maintaining Emotional Security and Respecting the Family Dimension of Childbirth during the Pandemic of COVID-19

Clémence Schantz, Mordjane Tiet, Anne Evrard, Sophie Guillaume, Dounia Boujahma, Bérénice Quentin, Dolorès Pourette, Virginie Rozée

Research Framework: During the first wave of COVID-19, practices in French maternity hospitals were heterogeneous, and restrictions mainly concerned the presence of accompanying persons and the requirement to wear a mask.

Objectives : We analyzed the impacts of the pandemic on the organization of care in the MaNaO birthing center on the island of Reunion, as well as the experiences of midwives, women who gave birth and their families.

Methodology: In 2021 and 2022, as part of the MaterCovid-19 research project (ANR), we carried out a study involving participatory observation and semi-structured interviews (n=34) with midwives and women at the birthing center, called MaNaO, on the island of Reunion.

Results: Our results show that while the health crisis has reinforced the medicalization of birth center spaces, MaNaO has been described by women and midwives as a pandemic-proof place, or a “COVID-free bubble”. Thanks to the human and intimate nature of all the care provided, the philosophy and independent access to the facility, which guarantees that every woman is supported during her examinations and on the day of delivery, as well as the early return home that is characteristic of this facility, the birth center has succeeded in protecting women and their families from the psychological and sometimes dehumanizing shock of the health crisis.

Conclusions : This research highlights the fact that the current demands from women and their families are not just about de-medicalization, but also about preserving the family nature of childbirth. It also points to the absolute necessity of reinforcing women’s emotional security.

Contributions : At a time when birthing centers are being tested in France, the results of this research could contribute to the social and political debate.