February 22, 2013 at 9:07am

What is obstetric violence?

obstetric violence picture


 Obstetric violence is physical or mental violation towards a woman during her pregnancy and birth by her healthcare.

 Bearing in mind that with the statistics of 1 in 3 women being raped (in South Africa) – pregnancy can be a result of sexual abuse. Or a planned and happy pregnant lady may have been previously abused and this will affect her.

Obstetric violence may be a per vaginal (PV) examination without explanation to her, forcing a pv on a lady who doesn’t want one, doing one without indication, being rough or disrespectful.

Yes, it happens. It has happened to me – “Please will you do the PV on her – she is being very unco-operative and you have small hands.” Why was the 21 year old primigravid from another country, who couldn’t speak English and was maybe in labour, but had slept the whole night through, – why was she “unco-operative”? Did she really need that FORCED PV. Why did she keep coming to hospital in “false labour”? Did she really need a PV to decide her management? Was this the best way to manage her?

 Obstetric Violence may be the abusive, loud, panicked shouting in labour “Push!” “Your baby will be sick if you don’t push him out now!” And shouting louder and louder to make the again labelled “unco-operative” woman lie still on her back so the fetal monitor machine tied tightly on her abdomen doesn’t keep losing contact. 

 Shouting at anyone is abuse. Shouting at someone birthing their baby is obstetric violence.

 Obstetric Violence may be the seeds of doubt planted by the expert obstetrician – “Hmmmm. This baby is very big.” At 20 weeks. And again and again and again.

scared lady

 Obstetric violence is the co-erced non-indicated caeserian section or induction.

 Obstetric violence is the unnecessary episiotomy.

 Obstetric violence is keeping a woman on her back, or side, in bed tied down to the fetal monitor machine for hours and hours.

 Obstetric Violence is not being aware and sensitive to the possibility that that woman who is labouring experienced sexual abuse and it will affect her labour and birth.

 Obstetric Violence is cutting the cord immediately, separating the baby from the mother, hanging the baby upside down, mocking the mother’s body parts. 

 Obstetric Violence is everyone and anyone walking in and out of a room with a labouring lady or leaving the door or curtain open.

 Obstetric Violence is withholding the right of the woman to move around freely, drink and eat freely in labour, have a birth partner present. This is all part of the Baby Friendly Initiative that each hospital proudly displays.

 Pregnancy is a time filled with mixed emotions, preparation and huge hormonal changes for anyone. If you are dealing with the result of sexual abuse, if you have been sexually abused in the past, pregnancy will be filled with far more challenges that will not be obvious to your healthcare provider. 

 Labour and birth are sacred, sensitive and important! The mother’s birth experience has a huge impact on her and her baby and is the start to a challenging and wonderful journey called parenting. It should be respected in a gentle dignified manner.

 Her birth experience has the power to heal or hurt her. Being gentle, kind and loving in a quiet, secure environment will help to keep her labour physiological – without needing interventions – as well as giving her a satisfying, empowering experiencing.

 Obstetric Violence is an unnecessary part of sexual violence. It should be reported and STOPPED!