Childbirth is an extremely unique experience for every woman. Some have detailed birth plans set out for months before they're due to give birth, others are content to simply go with the flow without any plans in place. What most women don't count on is being yelled at or criticized while they're giving birth, however, a new study is showing that a staggering number of women are being mistreated during the childbirth process.
According to a new survey recently published in the journal Reproductive Health, a shocking one in six women in the United States reported some form of mistreatment during childbirth. The study listed loss of autonomy, being shouted at, scolded, or threatened and being ignored, refused, or receiving no response to requests for help as all different ways women felt they were mistreated. The study found that 17% of the 2138 women who completed their survey felt they were mistreated during their childbirth experience.
The study also found that women of color were more likely to be mistreated during childbirth than white women, as well as women who had partners who were Black, regardless of the race of the mother. Women who were less likely to be mistreated were those who had vaginal or community births, those who used a midwife, those who were white, women who have had more than one child, and women who were older than 30.
One of the authors of the study, Monica McLemore, an assistant professor of family health care nursing at the University of California, San Francisco explained her thoughts about the results to The Huffington Post. “I was surprised to find that the top two forms of mistreatment during childbirth were shouting and scolding,” she said. “I find that to be unacceptable.”
“This is a widespread phenomenon,” the study’s lead author, Saraswathi Vedam, a midwife and professor at the University of British Columbia told Vox. “Mistreatment, when you look at it in all of its aspects, certainly includes people being shouted at, scolded, or experiencing physical and verbal abuse. But there’s also ... not being listened to, not being engaged in the decision, not having the ability to self-determine what care happens for you and your body.”
Vedam believes this is a problem that can be fixed. “We have the capacity right now to really address these issues,” she said. “These initiatives include diversifying the health care workforce, mandating anti-racism and implicit bias training for everyone who interacts with childbearing families, increasing access to doulas and midwives, and raising public awareness of their human rights. The road may be long and hard, but it is the only right path.”