Africa: Midwives Assault Pregnant Women At Childbirth

Accra — HUNDREDS of women in some low-income countries have been physically abused, discriminated and had medical procedures conducted without their consent as they gave birth in health facilities.

A global study established the violations were rife in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria.

Younger, less-educated women were found to be the most at risk of mistreatment, which can include physical and verbal abuse, stigmatization and discrimination, use of force during procedures, and abandonment or neglect by healthcare workers.

The study, carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO), found that 838 (42 percent) of 2 016 women experienced physical or verbal abuse, stigma or discrimination.

Some 14 percent experienced physical abuse - most commonly being slapped, hit or punched.

Other expectant mothers were shouted at, scolded and mocked.

Interviews were also conducted with 2 672 women after birth, finding similar levels of mistreatment, typically regarding their race or ethnicity.

There were also high rates of non-consensual caesarean sections, episiotomies (surgical cuts made at the opening of the vagina during childbirth) and vaginal examinations.

WHO calls upon authorities and healthcare service providers to collaborate to curb the mistreatment of women during childbirth.

The agency said the findings of the study should be used to inform policies and programmes to ensure that all women had a positive pregnancy and childbirth experiences.

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