© Monet Nicole, Birthing Stories

Mistreatment in Childbirth

My heart breaks reading this new report about mistreatment in childbirth. I have heard too many of these sad stories, and have even been a witness as a doula to abuse during birth. It’s terrible, inhumane, and inexcusable, yet it happens every day. “The Giving Voice to Mothers study: inequity and mistreatment during pregnancy and childbirth in the United States” was a collaborative effort by the University of British Columbia, Every Mother Counts, and other collaborating partners. I am grateful to all the people who shared their stories to create a unified voice demanding maternity care to do better.

As Maureen Corry said to me years ago:

statistics are people with the tears washed off making it easier for us to read.”

For each person, their story often goes well beyond the moment of mistreatment and extends for their lifetime because as we know – birth is a day we never forget.

“The findings of the study are striking—17.3 percent of women reported experiencing one or more types of mistreatment and percentages were even higher for women of color compared with white women. Among mothers with low socioeconomic status, 18.7 percent of white women reported mistreatment compared to 27.2 percent of women of color. Indigenous women were the most likely to report experiencing at least one form of mistreatment by health providers, followed by Black and Hispanic women. Being shouted at or scolded by a health care provider was the most commonly reported type of mistreatment, followed by delaying or refusing requests for care.” – read more

The “Giving Voice to Mothers Study” only further ignites my excitement to be named Co-Chair of the new International Childbirth Initiative (ICI). The International MotherBaby Childbirth Organization (IMBCO) and the Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) have joined forces developing a single global initiative to provide guidance and support for safe and respectful maternity care, building upon their previous work and incorporating the most recent evidence and insights into what constitutes optimal maternal and newborn health. The Initiative is endorsed by leading birth organizations around the world, and includes “12 Steps to Safe and Respectful MotherBaby-Family Maternity Care.”

Our 12 steps are moving us in the direction to end mistreatment in childbirth. 

But I won’t stop there – birth can be so much more, and even a day that can be Orgasmic! One way to combat disrespect in birth is to find a provider that endorses in the ICI and provides as Ibu Robin Lim says, “prenatal care, not prenatal scare!” Share more of my tips for a respectful, pleasurable birth with your friends and colleagues by encouraging them to join my mailing list. 

The tides are turning – as my midwife and dear friend says, “women of earth take back your birth!” – and Step 1 of the ICI ensures a human rights framework of safe, respectful, quality, collaborative maternity care with compassion.

Together we can and are making a difference – please share your thoughts on the “Giving Voice to Mothers” study, and join us as we continue to work to improve people experience in childbirth.

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