A pregnant woman laying in bed wearing black underwear.

Birth Trauma Due to Obstetric Violence


OV is Mistreatment or Disrespect by medical personnel during Labor or Birth

The Giving Voice to Mothers Study 2700 US Women Surveyed

One in 6 (17%) US women surveyed reported mistreatment giving birth. About 27% of women of color with lower socio-economic status report mistreatment, including ‘loss of autonomy; being shouted at, scolded, or threatened; and being ignored, refused, or receiving no response to requests for help.

Black women, Hispanic women, Asian, and Indigenous women were twice as likely as White women to report that a health care provider ignored them, refused their request for help, or failed to respond to requests for help in a reasonable amount of time.

OV ranges from verbal disrespect to physical assault. All are traumatic for birthing people and may result in short term and long term mental and physical health impacts on the mother/infant dyad.

Joking about pain and loss of autonomy and dignity

Paternalism — you are Allowed or Not Allowed, ignoring a birth plan

Dismiss or Ignore patient reports of pain or other symptoms

Microaggressions and Disrespect

Coercion — giving biased (not evidence based) information, threats of harm, calling Child Protective Services and threatening legal kidnapping

Procedures done without consent — vaginal exam, breaking bag of waters, episiotomies

Physical restraint and forced procedures = Assault and Battery!

Disrespect, Degradation, Assault when Giving Birth can cause PTSD and PPMD and can impact infant health.

Why is OV happening?

History of Obstetrics: founded in Sexism, Racism, Capitalism, Patriarchy, the pathologizing of Birth, and the virtual eradication of traditional African American Midwifery

Medical Training Pecking Order and Culture of Disrespect

Disrespectful behavior threatens organizational culture and patient safety in multiple ways. A sense of privilege and status can lead physicians to treat nurses with disrespect, creating a barrier to the open communication and feedback that are essential for safe care. A sense of autonomy can underlie resistance to following safe practices, resulting in patient harm. Absence of respect undermines the teamwork needed to improve practice. Dismissive treatment of patients impairs communication and their engagement as partners in safe care.

Doctor/Patient Power Differential and Ignorance of Human (Maternal) Rights

What Can Be Done to Avoid/Prevent OV?

Vet Maternity Services Early – learn about their policies and names of those in charge

Culturally Congruent Care, Midwifery, Community Birth (outside Hospital)

Learn about Pregnancy and Birth so you know what you need, value, prefer

Know Your Rights and Practice ACTTing

Bring a Doula, or well-informed partner, get names/titles of staff, post patients Bill of rights of the Hospital or the State

Create and post one page Birth Plan several copies.

Give and Expect Respect and Empathy — if not – Switch Nurse/Doctor

If OV does happen — Lawsuit rarely helps

Get Support, write complaint to CEO etc, Patient Advisory Council of the Hospital, Reviews – including on the Irth App. News Media or Social Media — Videotape or audiorecord.