When Childbirth Comes with Abuse

Punched. Mocked. Shouted at. Held down by force.

These are some of the ways women remember childbirth, according to a new WHO-led Lancet study that interviewed over 2,600 women in Nigeria, Burma (Myanmar), Ghana and Guinea.

But the problem is likely global—just rarely documented, the AP reports.

  • A shocking 42% said they experienced physical or verbal abuse or discrimination while giving birth. Some health workers reasoned that the abuse was “punishment” for uncooperative patients.
  • High rates of C-sections, surgical cuts to the vagina and vaginal examinations were performed without consent.
  • 57% were offered no pain relief after childbirth
  • Younger, less educated women were most at risk for abuse.

“Mistreatment during childbirth can amount to a violation of human rights, and could be a powerful disincentive from seeking facility-based maternity care,” the study noted, calling for these inequities to be urgently addressed.

Editors' Note: This summary originally cited a link from The Washington Post that has since been removed, rather than the AP version. 

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