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Giving birth during the Covid pandemic in France: from “everything went well” to a feeling of stolen motherhood Volume 41, issue 4, Décembre 2023

Authors
* Sociologue, Institut d’études démographiques (Ined), Unité « Santé et droits sexuels et reproductifs » (UR14), 9 cours des Humanités, 93300 Aubervilliers, France ;
** Sociologue et sage-femme, Université Paris Cité, IRD, Inserm, Ceped, 75006 Paris, France ;

From 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced a reorganisation of care including in maternity wards, accentuating biomedical injunctions during pregnancy and childbirth. In France, the new restrictions and constraints observed in some hospitals have been widely publicised and relayed on social networks, particularly through the denunciation of two practices: the imposition of wearing a mask and the refusal to allow patients to be accompanied during childbirth. In this context, we conducted the MaterCovid19 research project on experiences of childbirth in Île-de-France and La Réunion during this period. The focus here is on the body experiences of women in the three public hospital maternity units included in the study. The main element that emerges from their narratives is the apprehension of having to give birth “alone”. At the end, the significant discrepancy between what women feared and the actual conditions of their delivery resulted in the declaration that “everything went well”. Nevertheless, few of them had anticipated the difficulties of being alone with the newborn following childbirth. Thus the pandemic created a strong feeling of loneliness among women, linked, even amplified, by a feeling of stolen motherhood. The majority of them therefore did not describe a positive experience of childbirth. The experience is, however, related to the women’s perceptions of motherhood and medicine, as well as to their personal and family history.