There's growing global momentum to address the issue of disrespectful care in maternity services, including facility-based abuse. The result of disrespectful care is what women often call "birth rape" and it leads to birth trauma, postpartum PTSD, postpartum depression, and anxiety. The expression "obstetric violence" has been defined by various laws and has been incorporated into our everyday lexicon to identify those behaviours that violate the patient's human rights, legal rights, consent, bodily autonomy, sexuality, and dignity. Obstetric violence refers to the obstetric client rather than the particular profession of the one perpetuating the violation of the client.
Venezuela's 2007 Organic Law on the Right of Women to Live a Life Free of Violence defines obstetric violence as:
"The appropriation of the body and reproductive processes of women by health personnel, which is expressed as dehumanised treatment, an abuse of medication, and to convert the natural processes into pathological ones, bringing with it loss of autonomy and the ability to decide freely about their bodies and sexuality, negatively impacting the quality of life of women."
The following behaviours on the part of care providers is considered obstetric violence:
Seven categories have been further identified as abuse in facility-based childbirth (Bowser & Hill, 2010):
More recently, an analysis of 65 studies from 34 countries identified a set of abusive behaviours that was consistent across all geographic regions and country income levels (Bohren, 2015).
The traumatic birth experiences of mothers were studied and there were 4 common behaviours on the part of the care provider that were identified as contributing to the traumatic experience (Reed, 2017):
Every woman has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, which includes the right to dignified, respectful health care.
Many women experience disrespectful and abusive treatment during childbirth in facilities worldwide. Such treatment not only violates the rights of women to respectful care, but can also threaten their rights to life, health, bodily integrity and freedom from discrimination. This statement calls for greater action, dialogue, research and advocacy on this important public health and human rights issue. (World Health Organisation, 2015)
You can review the references for the above information here.
The issue of obstetric violence is bigger than an individual. It's a complex issue that involves the healthcare system as a whole, institutional practices and culture, issues of racism and patriarchy, and professional burnout. There are also evidence-based solutions. Becoming a trauma-informed perinatal professional is a cornerstone in changing systemic abuses of health care professionals and their clients.