Women’s Rights in Childbirth Are Violated Every Day
Women of Earth, take back your birth is a somewhat “corny” saying in the midwifery world but the meaning rings true. Women’s rights in childbirth are being violated every day. Anyone who works in this field can tell you that they have seen women and their babies treated badly. Many times the Obstetricians and hospital staff directly ignoring well-known evidence-based clinical guidelines such as avoiding the separation of mother and baby immediately after the birth. This behavior is justified by the hospital personnel stating that they need to protect the health of the mother and baby. The Midwives of New Jersey have been promoting autonomy for women in childbirth and speaking out against obstetrical violence for our entire careers.
There is a current lawsuit that represents a case of true abuse to a woman, Kimberly Turbin, who had no recourse in the moment of her birth; the physician, the nurse and her own mother were all pushing for an episiotomy and in no way acknowledging the woman’s desire to avoid the surgical procedure. She adamantly declined and yet the episiotomy was performed. And to my experience, an episiotomy never needs 12 snips with a scissor.
ACOG Committee Opinion Supports a Woman’s Freedom to Make Choices
In May of this year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a Committee opinion strongly opposing the exact scenario in which Kimberly Turbin found herself. This is a strongly written paper encouraging all Obstetricians to allow women the freedom to make choices for themselves and their babies even if the Obstetrician believes that these choices could lead to harm or death of her baby or herself. These choices are to be given without coercion.
This Committee opinion is HUGE! My thoughts leap to the many things that women are denied in labor in the name of “safety” but is absolutely because of the inconvenience to hospital staff. Women are told they cannot take off the fetal monitor or decline an IV or bloodwork or even get out of bed. They are not given the opportunity to participate in decisions about induction of labor, speeding up labor or how long to push. In many cases, they are not even allowed to eat and drink in labor!
More Choice, More Responsiblity
The good news is that this statement will provide safety for both the providers of obstetrical care and their patients. The providers are understandably concerned about their liability when allowing women to make decisions for themselves. Hopefully this statement will make the OB providers more comfortable allowing women to choose options outside a hospital protocol; things like laboring without continuous fetal monitoring or squatting to push. This statement will give women more choices for their births but will expect them to take responsibility for their choices.
Women Around the World Fighting for Human Rights in Childbirth
Around the world, women are fighting for their basic human right to give birth in safety as an active decision maker for themselves and their children.
Human Rights in Childbirth founder and executive director Hermine Hayes-Klein gave a speech at Women Deliver 2016 conference, on a panel session titled “Compassionate and People-Centered Care: Why We Need It.” An excerpt of the speech is below
The global cesarean section pandemic is, in itself, a form of obstetric violence. In many cities and nations in both the developed and developing world, women who can access care are churned through cesarean section assembly lines, while women from marginalized communities in the same nation are left to die preventable deaths. Is this equity? Media reports on the cesarean pandemic often claim that women want all these surgeries. Studies show, that’s not true. Women want a healthy birth, and they want to know that the medical system will meet them at their need, and have surgery available if they need it, but support them in a vaginal birth if they don’t. Economic studies all over the world connect providers’ financial and time-convenience incentives to the massive increase in surgical deliveries. The money that healthcare systems are wasting on the surgical delivery of healthy babies from healthy women could be directed toward underserved women and closing gaps in women’s reproductive health.
What You Can Do – Stay Informed!
Fortunately, we are beginning to recognize women’s rights in childbirth. There is still a significant battle to be fought and won but momentum is starting to swing in our favor. Stay informed about the progress being made, tell your story or lend your support! Check out the organization Improving Birth and keep following the Midwives of New Jersey.