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Women without companions risk non consented medical procedures at delivery: Report

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A new World Health Organization (WHO) report on understanding mistreatment of women during childbirth shows mothers that show up to deliver with labor companions are less likely to suffer health facility-based mistreatment.

The report which combines five studies was published on Wednesday in the BMJ Global Health journal and it points to emerging evidence that women across the world face unacceptable mistreatment during childbirth including violations of their rights including rights to privacy, informed consent, and the right to have a trusted companion of choice throughout childbirth.

In a statement, the WHO warns mistreatment can seriously erode trust in the health facility, which can mean that women are less likely to access facility-based care before, during, and after birth which can in the end have grave consequences for the health and well-being of women and their babies.

Özge Tunçalp, medical officer at WHO and the Human Reproductive Program (HRP) explains, “Improving the experience of women throughout labor and childbirth is essential to help increase women’s trust in facility-based care as well as ensuring access to quality postnatal care following birth.”

Calling for more research to better understand the experiences of women during childbirth, the new report presents evidence from a WHO multi-country study on the positive impact of labor companions where they found women who had companions to be reporting a better experience.

The analysis shows women without a companion were more likely to report physical abuse, non-consented medical procedures, and poor communication compared with women with a labor companion. In contrast, when women had a companion of choice, they experienced lower levels of some forms of mistreatment although this was dependent on the setting.

Another paper that focused on vaginal examination and mistreatment during childbirth based on labor observations showed the importance of good communication and clear consent processes during childbirth. This paper offered up a practical way to reduce women’s exposure and increase their privacy by using basic interventions such as having curtains in labor suites.

“When women and their babies receive respectful, quality, person-centered care, they are more likely to access contacts with health workers and they are more likely to access potentially life-saving care at a health facility,” comments Dr. Özge Tunçalp.

Tuncalp says that since they have the evidence, they we will be able to take more steps towards reducing mistreatment worldwide.



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