Background: Considering the fact that a significant proportion of high-risk pregnancies are currently referred to tertiary level hospitals; and that a large proportion of low obstetric risk women still seek care in these hospitals, it is important to explore the factors that influence the childbirth experience in these hospitals, particularly, the concept of humanized birth care.The aim of this study was to explore the organizational and cultural factors, which act as barriers or facilitators in the provision of humanized obstetrical care in a highly specialized, university-affiliated hospital in Quebec province, in Canada.
Methods: A single case study design was chosen. The study sample included 17 professionals and administrators from different disciplines, and 157 women who gave birth in the hospital during the study. The data was collected through semi-structured interviews, field notes, participant observations, a self-administered questionnaire, documents, and archives. Both descriptive and qualitative deductive content analyses were performed and ethical considerations were respected.
Results: Both external and internal dimensions of a highly specialized hospital can facilitate or be a barrier to the humanization of birth care practices in such institutions, whether independently, or altogether. The greatest facilitating factors found were: caring and family- centered model of care, professionals' and administrators' ambient for the provision of humanized birth care besides the medical interventional care which is tailored to improve safety, assurance, and comfort for women and their children, facilities to provide a pain-free birth, companionship and visiting rules, dealing with the patients' spiritual and religious beliefs. The most cited barriers were: the shortage of health care professionals, the lack of sufficient communication among the professionals, the stakeholders' desire for specialization rather than humanization, over estimation of medical performance, finally the training environment of the hospital leading to the presence of too many health care professionals, and consequently, a lack of privacy and continuity of care.
Conclusion: The argument of medical intervention and technology at birth being an opposing factor to the humanization of birth was not seen to be an issue in the studied highly specialized university affiliated hospital.