Report reveals some women slapped, mocked during childbirth
JOHANNESBURG -- A new report says more than one-third of women in four low-income countries in Africa and Asia were slapped, mocked, forcibly treated or otherwise abused during childbirth in health centers and suggests that such mistreatment occurs worldwide.
The study published Wednesday in The Lancet medical journal says women in Nigeria, Myanmar, Ghana and Guinea also experienced high rates of cesarean sections and surgical cuts to the vagina, or episiotomies, without their consent.
"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 said in a discussion of similar research.
The new study led by the World Health Organization followed more than 2,000 women during labor and interviewed more than 2,600 women after childbirth.
Some 42% reported physical or verbal abuse or discrimination during childbirth. Some women were punched, shouted at, scolded or forcibly held down.
Most of the abuse occurred in the 15 minutes before and during childbirth. The study cited research that found that "midwives and doctors described women as 'uncooperative' during this period and some justified using physical and verbal abuse as 'punishment.'"
Younger, less-educated women are at risk of such mistreatment which also includes neglect by health workers or the use of force during procedures, the study said.
Among the 2,016 women observed, 13% of the cesarean sections and 75% of the surgical cuts to the vagina were performed without consent. In 59% of cases, vaginal examinations were performed without consent.
"Younger, unmarried women were more likely to have non-consented vaginal examinations," the study said.
Of the 2,672 women interviewed after childbirth, more than half or 57% said they had not been offered any relief for pain.
Some women were then detained afterward at the health centers for not being able to pay the bill.
The study suggested allowing women to have a companion of their choice present during childbirth, improving the informed consent process and redesigning maternity wards to improve privacy.
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