Bringing the Coronavirus Age to Life

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“When I heard the news, I cried without stopping. Knowing that we are not going to discover the baby together, it breaks my heart. I can’t accept it. ” In a few days, Manon will give birth to her first child. A moment that she and her partner Julien had imagined living together. But the coronavirus decided otherwise. Two weeks ago, the maternity hospital of Caen CHU confirmed their fears: because of the Covid-19 epidemic, Julien will not be able to attend Manon’s birth, nor visit him during his hospitalization. “I have the right to accompany her to the maternity unit, and then to return after the delivery but for only two hours. That’s all “, tells the future daddy, annoyed.

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“We may try to put things in perspective, we do not digest”continues the young couple, already destabilized by the precipitous move that the announcement of confinement imposed on them. “We had just moved into an apartment still under construction in Paris. No hot water, no toilet, no shower. Unable to stay and welcome the baby under these conditions. “ They therefore moved to Caen, where Manon’s mother lent them her apartment. We had to find a new maternity in a hurry and prepare the room for the ” small ” with the means at hand. “In fact, since the virus arrived, everything has been turned upside down”, note these thirties, ” angry ” against this disease and the “Bad luck” who wants Manon to give birth “Pile when it is not necessary”. “It feels like we’re being robbed of what should be the best moment of our lives. “

Technologies to the rescue

It is also the feeling that Elodie had, whose little Lucy was born on the night of March 13, a few days before confinement. “At that time, there were already restrictions, explains this musician based in Grenoble, but the father was able to attend the delivery. “ Before being separated for a long time from her baby girl, born premature and hospitalized in neonatology for almost three weeks. “The phone, the videos and the photos made us feel a little closer to each other. Of course, that is not worth a physical presence, but thanks to that, my companion could see the face of his daughter every day “, underlines Élodie, who spends part of her time reassuring her pregnant friends.

For many future mothers, it is difficult to be positive, especially since the rules can vary from one maternity to another, and sometimes overnight. “Regarding the presence of the companion, it is the regional health agencies that decide locally, says Anne-Marie Curat, President of the National Council of the College of Midwives. In some maternities, fathers are still allowed to stay. Others completely banned his presence and then reversed their decision because they realized the harmful consequences it could have. “ Like pushing some women to consider home birth, “Which can be excessively dangerous when it is not prepared”, points out Anne-Marie Curat.

Save protective equipment

For this midwife practicing in the Southwest, these restrictions are not always justified. “If it is to prevent the gentleman from infecting the madam, it does not make much sense, since they were stuck together during the entire period preceding the birth, she believes. If it is to protect caregivers, then I understand, but is it not still possible to make room for it in the birthing room, making sure to apply the barrier measures? “ Sometimes the lack of material is invoked. Clearly, masks and gowns, provided to accompanying persons, must be saved as much as possible for the times to come…

“Not only is it not clear what impact the coronavirus can have on parturients, notes Anne-Marie Curat, but this confinement that lasts will ask important questions for their follow-up and that of newborns. “

A necessary psychological support

Among caregivers too, the arrival of the epidemic changed habits.We reorganized everything, especially in terms of pregnancy monitoring, which is now done remotely to limit the comings and goings, explains a young gynecologist, intern in a hospital in Seine-Saint-Denis where an entire department welcomes future mothers with Covid-19. Ultrasound scans are maintained but not accompanied. The emergency room is always open, but again, patients must come alone. On the other hand, spouses are still accepted in the birthing room, but they must leave soon enough after the birth is over and cannot return. It’s hard “, she testifies.

→ READ. Coronavirus, containment… Answers to your questions

While hospitals have had to revise their organization to cope with the influx of patients from Covid-19, staffing has been maintained in the vast majority of maternity hospitals. “We tend to forget this, but a maternity hospital must also manage emergencies: unscheduled cesarean section, hemorrhage …, underlines Doctor Estelle Morau, anesthesiologist-resuscitator in obstetrics in several hospitals of Montpellier and its region. Health crises or not, complications are part of our daily lives. “

At the origin of a website “To help women and anesthesiologists to communicate during confinement” (1), this doctor insists on the need to guarantee the safety of mothers, 80% of whom request an epidural, but also to support them psychologically. “In maternity, everyone knows that the emotional balance of women is essential. As such, midwives play a leading role. “

The warm presence of midwives

Audrey will not say the contrary, she who experienced this loneliness imposed during a previous epidemic, that of the H1N1 flu. It was in 2010. “I gave birth in a hurry, at eight and a half months, she says. When I arrived at the maternity ward, the ax fell: no right to visit, except the father, who was allowed to return after giving birth for an hour. I was 18 years old, it was my first child. I was terrified. ” Ten years later, what she remembers first is the warm presence of midwives. “We were four or five women to give birth that day, they surrounded us in an extraordinary way. “

Constant attention that Élodie, too, echoes. “Perhaps even more than usual, we feel that the staff give themselves body and soul so that the mothers feel the best possible and their baby too”. Now back home, surrounded by her companion and her granddaughter, the young mother is only in one hurry: to present her child to her parents. ” In truth ! “

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130 to 140,000 babies expected in April and May

– The National Academy of Medicine believes that 130,000 to 140,000 babies will be born in the next two months. “Newborns constitute a population with their mothers that must be protected”, underlines the institution, which makes a series of recommendations concerning pregnancy and childbirth during an epidemic.

– Among them, the systematic establishment of a “Covid-19 sector” in maternity hospitals, in order to allow “Uninfected parturients” to deliver safely.

– Other recommendation: the supply of maternity units with protective equipment for caregivers (masks, hydroalcoholic gel but also overcoats, charlottes, glasses etc.)

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