Obstetric Violence

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When I learned I was pregnant, a little more than 3 years ago, one of my first concerns was to be able to have checkups and attention with a doctor that actually supported natural birth. Even more, living in a country like Venezuela, which has one of the highest rates of C-sections in Latin America, 80% in the private sector (the WHO considers that a normal rate would be between 10% and 15%).

Birth with no pain

They practiced an episiotomy on me without letting me know.

 

A few years before my own pregnancy I had the blessing of seeing firsthand the birth of one of my nieces, a birth that showed me a lovely, beautiful and dreamy face. The true face of the birth, opposed to that terror story that everyone has in their collective unconscious.

Jesús Alejandro Sánchez ©Solkes

And, if you think about it, from that “You shall give birth with pain” in the Bible (Genesis 3:16), the scenes from TV shows and movies, up to those terrible tales from women, closer or not, “the act of birth has always been marketed as a painful act… full of suffering.

I lost count of the many pelvis exams they practice on me, it wasn’t the same person every time, I felt invaded, frustrated and humiliated.

Back to my personal story, I needed to find a medical doctor to be safe with, one which would give me my so desired (and rare) natural birth for my baby or who would reassure that if in the end I was in a C-section (as it was), it would be because my safety or my baby’s safety were in danger and not only another unneeded C-section like in most cases.

Pro natural birth

But, why do you have to actually look for a doctor pro natural birth. It’s like searching for a needle in a hay stack. All of this to be sure that you will have a natural birth / C-section with the respect it deserves? What is happening in health institutions that makes them see natural birth as a dangerous and delicate situation?

Why is the natural birth, a physiological process, turned into a totally deformed procedure thatt is constantly interrupted by a lot of invasive and unjustified preparation? Isn’t it on of the most natural acts that we can witness? Didn’t we populate the Earth in such a manner?

Jesús Alejandro Sánchez ©Solkes

These kind of testimonials are very common around the World. They are so common in fact, that at the end we think of them as a normal thing. So normal that it passes us by and we don’t give it a second thought. So normal that most women even think they deserved such a treatment, that it’s the way it is.

After the birth, they took my (strong and healthy) baby away without letting me see her. After six hours and endless begging a nurse who was starting her shift had condolence and took her to my room, they had already given her formula.

So normal that we can even feel guilty if we’re not satisfied with our child’s birth story, because at the end of the day, what matters the most (as our own mothers say) is that we have our healthy baby (or not so healthy due to these bad practices) in our arms.

What happens to the emotional and physical trails of those moments? Why can’t we have less traumatic memories of one of most important, significant and unforgettable moment of our lives?

Obstetric Violence

Obstetric Violence is a derivative of the Gender Violence and a violation to the Human Rights and the Women’s Reproductive Rights ignored in most cases.

While I pushed, the anaesthetist got on top of me to help push the baby, the result was a fracture clavicle.

According to Jesusa Ricoy Olariaga, Activist for the Perinatal Education and Maternity, Obstetric Violence is the act of ignoring the authority and autonomy that every woman has over her sexuality, her body, her babies and her birth process. It’s also the act of ignoring the spontaneity, the positions, the rhythms and the times that the process of birth requires to develop normally when there’s no need of intervention.

Legal sanctions against obstetric violence

In the Venezuelan code of laws ( Venezuela is the first country in the world that has a law that actively sanctions obstetric violence ) it’s defined as: “The appropriation of the women’s body and reproductive processes by health care givers, that expresses itself as a hierarchical inhuman treatment, an abuse of medical process and transforming natural process into pathologies, bringing the loss of autonomy and right to choose over her bodies and sexuality, negatively impacting the status quo of women.”

Article 51.

“It will be considered an act of obstetric violence those executed by healthcare personnel, like:

1. Not to check and solve any obstetric emergency in a timely and efficient manner.

2. To force woman to give birth in a laying position and with legs up, having the means to provide a vertical or standing birth.

3. To obstruct the early attachment of the baby with her mother without a justified medical cause, denying the possibility of holding the baby in arms and give breastfeed immediately after her birth.

4. To alter the natural process of a low risk birth by using acceleration techniques without willing and informed consent from the woman.

5. Practice a C-section, while the conditions are met for a natural birth without willing and informed consent from the woman.”

There are two variants when it comes to obstetric violence, on one side, the physical violence, referring to intervention practices and giving medication that are unjustified due to the health of the woman during the birth labor and, at the same time, when time lapses and natural processes are interrupted. On the other side, there is the psychological violence, referring to inhuman, and mean treatments, yelling, bullying, humiliations, manipulation and/or denial of information when the woman giving birth requests for support, attention or any obstetric practice.

Franca Franchi ©Solkes

On September 2014, The World Health Organization (WHO) published a study titled Prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth where it stands against the public healthcare issue.

The matter of Obstetric Violence is a grave worldwide issue that has been ignored for too long. A form of violence deeply hidden and with very few people interested in looking at and solve. During several years a lot of countries have increased the rate of not needed and unjustified C-sections, the treatment of pregnant women as ill persons that are not able to decide about their own bodies or about how they want the birth process to be.

The matter of Obstetric Violence is a grave worldwide issue that has been ignored for too long. A form of violence deeply hidden and with very few people interested in looking at and solve. During several years a lot of countries have increased the rate of not needed and unjustified C-sections, the treatment of pregnant women as ill persons that are not able to decide about their own bodies or about how they want the birth process to be.

They’re forced to take C-sections through information manipulation, scaring them and blaming them if something goes wrong with the baby “because they didn’t do exactly what they were told by the healthcare personnel”. They are treated like infants, all of their power and autonomy is taken away from them.

We must empower ourselves

Jenniffer Oviedo Corrales © Solkes

As women, we have to empower ourselves, get information about our rights and raise our voice against these ill-treatments, we have populated the World by giving birth naturally, we must be aware of our importance, of the importance of our reproductive processes and our sexuality. The fact that something is being done in a certain way doesn’t mean that’s the right way.

The fact that certain situations exist and are considered routine doesn’t mean they are right. If there are more of us with eyes wide open, defending and protecting ourselves, then there will be a true possibility of making a change for good, as we pursue and deserve.

It possible to find out more when you type La Revolución de Las Rosas in Facebook. If you were a victim of obstetric violence and you wish to share your experience with someone or need of help or orientation, you can write directly to revoluciondelasrosascostarica@gmail.com and you will be sent to the organization based in your country. I want to give special thanks to Jenniffer Oviedo Corrales, the Rose Revolution Coordinator in Costa Rica for her collaboration during the writing of this article. Thanks!

Translated By: Laura Viera A

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