In a bid to reduce the global maternal mortality rate, in September 2014 World Health Organization released a statement where it called for greater research, action, advocacy and dialogue on this important public health issue, in order to ensure safe, timely, respectful care during childbirth for all women.
This research article titled The Mistreatment of Women during Childbirth in Health Facilities Globally: A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review, looked at the mistreatment of women during childbirth in health facilities globally. The study was done because women in resource-limited countries are afraid to deliver in health facilities due to fear of mistreatment during delivery.
The researchers developed a typology of the mistreatment of women during childbirth consisting of seven domains (categories). These domains were physical abuse (for example, slapping or pinching during delivery); sexual abuse; verbal abuse such as harsh or rude language; stigma and discrimination based on age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or medical conditions; failure to meet professional standards of care (for example, neglect during delivery); poor rapport between women and providers, including ineffective communication, lack of supportive care, and loss of autonomy; and health system conditions and constraints such as the lack of the resources needed to provide women with privacy.
The findings illustrate how women’s experiences of childbirth worldwide are marred by mistreatment. Moreover, they indicate that, although the mistreatment of women during delivery in health facilities often occurs at the level of the interaction between women and healthcare providers, systemic failures at the levels of the health facility and the health system also contribute to its occurrence.
The writers conclude that further studies are needed to provide quantitative evidence of the burden of mistreatment of women during delivery and to identify the characteristics of health facilities that facilitate or mitigate the mistreatment of women.
The researchers call for the adoption of their evidence-based typology as a way to describe the mistreatment of women during childbirth in health facilities. Their typology, they suggest, could also be used to develop measurement tools and to design interventions that ensure that health care providers promote positive birth experiences by providing respectful, dignified, and supportive care to women during childbirth.
Hopefully, such interventions will lead to more women deciding to deliver their babies in health facilities, will promote positive birth experiences, and, ultimately, will lead to further reductions in maternal deaths.