Obstetric violence: Another form of abuse of women and how to prevent it

Obstetric violence includes all those behaviors and actions that dehumanize and minimize women during pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium. Actions that constitute another form of abuse to women and which are a reality, sometimes invisible, in many countries of the world.

obstetric violence

Obstetric violence can be manifested through ill-treatment, humiliation or lack of information about the treatments. All this can lead to loss of freedom, autonomy and ability to freely decide on their body and sexuality.

Obstetric violence against women

Recognizing obstetric violence as gender based violence is essential to give visibility to the disrespectful and offensive treatment that many women around the world suffer during pregnancy and childbirth, violating their rights to life, health, physical integrity and non-discrimination. In 2014, the World Health Organization developed a declaration for the prevention and eradication of disrespect and abuse during childbirth in health centers.

The WHO stresses that if there is a time when women are especially vulnerable is the childbirth. Obstetric violence can have negative consequences for both the mother and the baby.

What is obstetric violence?

How to identify obstetric violence? This type of mistreatment of women is manifested:

  • Verbal abuse and humiliation.
  • Paternalistic or derogatory treatment.
  • These practices include cesarean sections, episiotomies, bag rupture, enemas, Kristeller’s maneuver, Hamilton’s surgery, and other medical procedures.
  • Lack of confidentiality.
  • Negative for administering painkillers or drug abuse.
  • Prohibition of eating or drinking for hours.
  • Neglect of women during childbirth.
  • Induction of labor without medical justification.

Abuse, lack of respect or negligence in pregnancy and childbirth constitute a violation of the women fundamental human rights.

How to avoid obstetric violence

Following the recommendations of WHO and the Ministry of Health:

  • It is recommended that women during pregnancy indicate their preferences in connection with childbirth, which must be respected by the staff of the medical center.
  • Any changes that may be necessary must be explained to the woman and her consent.
  • The woman has the right to be accompanied by another person throughout the birth process.
  • The vaginal or palpable touch of the cervix to check the delivery process should be limited to one every four hours.
  • Allow mobility and choice of posture that women find most comfortable during the birthing process.
  • It is necessary to promote that the woman is in a relaxed and calm environment during the dilation phase.
  • Encourage the contact of the newborn with the mother at birth, especially during the first hour after delivery. This practice favors breastfeeding.