A recent survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that 20% of women in the United States reported instances of mistreatment during their maternity care, while nearly 30% stated that they had encountered discrimination due to factors such as age, weight, or income. The survey involved 2,400 mothers.
Mistreatment In Maternity Care: Survey Findings
Of the individuals surveyed, 20% recounted instances of mistreatment during their maternity care. The rates of reported mistreatment were even higher among women of colour. The report said that ill-treatment was faced by 30% of Black women, 29% of Hispanic women, and 27% of multiracial women.
The report further mentioned the most prevalent forms of mistreatment. Most mothers did not receive a response when requesting assistance; they faced yelling or reprimanding, insufficient protection of physical privacy, and threats of treatment denial or coercion into unwanted procedures.
A significant portion—nearly half—of the women included in the survey admitted to refraining from discussing their questions or concerns with their maternity care provider. The most frequently cited reason was the belief that their experiences were within the realm of normalcy.
Other prevalent factors included women not wanting to exaggerate a problem or feeling embarrassed to address it. Some had received advice from friends or family that their issue was a common aspect of pregnancy. Moreover, the apprehension of being labelled a troublesome patient was also mentioned as a deterrent.
What About India?
In a study conducted in 2018 by The India Forum, a journal on contemporary issues, researchers visited two medical colleges, two district hospitals, and two CHCs, where they observed a total of 31 vaginal deliveries.
Extensive mistreatment of pregnant women and prevalent incidents of labour room violence were evident. Furthermore, district hospitals and medical colleges had a higher occurrence of mistreatment compared to primary health centres (PHCs) and community health centres (CHCs).
Among the 31 deliveries, 10 expectant mothers experienced physical aggression (such as being slapped or hit), while 17 of them were subjected to insults, threats, or raised voices.
Beyond physical violence and verbal mistreatment, pregnant women also faced the distressing experience of being shamed for their reproductive decisions. Additionally, instances were observed where intrauterine devices (IUDs) were inserted without complete awareness or consent from the women. Women also encountered verbal mistreatment in situations where accidents or unintended disruptions occurred during the delivery process.
Suggested reading: Idea Of Being 'Good' Puts Women's Health On Back Burner: Sushmita Sen