Obstetric Violence Is Also Gender Violence

Obstetric violence is also one of the many types of gender violence. What does it consist of and how can we prevent it.
Obstetric Violence Is Also Gender Violence

Last update: 18 October, 2022

Obstetric violence, although often silenced, is also gender violence. Unfortunately, many women have been exposed to situations that involved this type of physical or emotional torture. Of course, this type of abusive practice overshadows one of the most beautiful moments in a mother’s life.

Pain, helplessness, indignation, anger, and sadness. Just some of the feelings that take over mothers who must silently face these abusive ordeals. Every mother assumes and goes through the considerable pains of childbirth out of love for her child. But you don’t have to endure or tolerate this mistreatment.

Words that are as cruel and hurtful as necessary and more hurtful than a blow. The absolute loneliness and the estrangement of a child from whom there’s no news as means of punishment. Yelling, challenges, lack of information, mistreatment, and poor practices of all kinds are notorious factors in many obstetric and neonatology wards.

For this reason, for many years, what’s known as “Respected Birth” has been promoted. We’re talking about, perhaps, one of the most important and valuable campaigns spearheaded by moms. The fact of the matter is that women of the world have gotten tired and are saying “enough”. It’s no longer a question of keeping silent about such concrete and unfortunate events.

Hence, it’s imperative to know the rights we have as future moms and have the right information regarding what practices are necessary and which are aggressive and abusive. Public hospitals or private clinics, it makes no difference when it comes to this increasingly palpable reality.

Obstetric violence: What is it exactly?

An illustration of a pregnant woman lying on her back surrounded by the hands of numerous doctors.
Image source: Vice.com

Obstetric violence is nothing more and nothing less than another form of gender violence. It doesn’t discriminate by age or social class. When we speak of this type of circumstance, we’re referring to very diverse practices. They range from denying important information to injecting drugs when not appropriate, without consulting or giving prior notice.

Physical and verbal abuse and unnecessary cesarean sections complement this complex and painful panorama. It doesn’t matter when it occurs. It can take place before, during, or after the delivery itself.

The truth is that every woman has the right to enjoy a “Humanized Childbirth”, having the possibility to choose and make decisions about her delivery. It’s about choosing what’s considered best for the mother’s own body, and the interventions that she believes are convenient or unnecessary.

“Violence is the fear of the ideals of others”
-Mahatma Gandhi-

As we well know, the moment of giving birth involves moments of extreme vulnerability. For this reason, both mothers and newborns or unborn babies deserve respect and adequate care. Unfortunately, some health professionals position themselves above maternal desires and – through different mechanisms – they nullify their wishes “for their own good”.

As obstetric violence is a type of gender violence, it’s as questionable and repudiable as any other. Keeping silent makes you part of it, so don’t be afraid to report it. It’s crucial that we fight and combat this abuse so that no more mother sees such a crucial and unique moment overshadowed by cruelty and negligence.

How to combat obstetric violence?

A pregnant woman holding her bare belly.

If your child has already arrived in this world and you’ve become one more victim of obstetric violence, file a complaint with the Ministries of Health or Justice of your country. You can probably present the complaint at the same time to a commission or council specialized in gender violence.

If your child is on the way, don’t forget that hospitals and clinics generally allow guided tours or informational meetings. There, you’ll get to know both the facilities and their care protocol. This way, you’ll be able to choose the institution that you consider appropriate according to your expectations.

Always express your wishes before the time of giving birth. Also, check the process to follow whenever you think necessary. Of course, in some cases that require professional speed, these aspects are difficult. However, any necessary change must be previously explained, obtaining your consent.

Even if they deny you, you have the right to be accompanied at that key moment. A relaxed, calm, and harmonious atmosphere is essential in the dilation phase. At no time can they prohibit you from mobility and the free choice of the position that seems comfortable to you.

There’s no need to constantly submit to those annoying vaginal examinations or the palpation of the cervix. What’s usually done to check the status of the birthing process should be limited. Once every four hours is enough.

Lastly, checkups, vaccinations, and cleaning can wait. What’s most important is strengthening an immaculate bond with your child. Always favor skin-to-skin contact with your child during the first hour after birth. Prioritize breastfeeding whenever possible, and never forget that it’s your delivery and your child.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.