What can you do about birth trauma?

This advocacy piece was originally published on The Huffington Post.


Every new mother’s worst nightmare keep showing up in my Facebook and Instagram feed.

A detailed account of a birth experience hijacked by an insensitive provider.
Ruminating thoughts about what birth “could have been like.”
Flashbacks and triggers continuing on well into the toddler years.
PTSD diagnoses linked to that rattling transition into motherhood.

It’s a maternal health researcher’s (and a new mother’s) worst case scenario, showing up daily.

While the stigma-breaking stories are slowly making their way to center stage among my fellow maternal health professionals and advocates, birth trauma and the mistreatment of women during childbirth has yet to take the trending topic spotlight it desperately needs.

It’s bigger than a handful of stories making it into progressive news cycles.
It’s deeper than the decades of research about quality of maternal health care.

It’s a global human rights issue.

And it’s time the world hears about it.

A recently published literature review gathered data on the neglectful, abusive, humiliating and disrespectful treatment of women in health facilities across 34 countries.
And no, it was not just low and middle income countries that were represented.
And no, those 34 countries were not an exhaustive list of places where this is occurring.

Research like this is important, but it is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to uncovering the prevalence and impact of the issue.

So, I’ll say it again.
It’s bigger and deeper than we are aware of.
It’s a global human rights issue.
And it’s time the world hears about it.

While researchers like the ones who published this lit review have been instrumental in identifying, categorizing, and labeling the extent of the problem, we can’t do it alone.

We as researchers can’t tackle the monstrosities of physical abuse, verbal abuse, non-consented clinical care, ineffective communication, stigma and discrimination by ourselves.

Believe me, we have been trying.
We have tried systems level interventions, provider education, facilities initiatives, and policy change.
We have put it at the top of the quality of care agenda.
But as Mexico-based researchers articulated in an article marking 25 years of obstetric violence research in the country “there is a care quality issue in every women’s rights violation in the health care system, but the issue does not end there”

It’s bigger and deeper than we are aware of.
It’s a global human rights issue.
And it’s time the world hears about it.

The Universal Rights of Childbearing Women charter states that every woman has the right to dignified reproductive health care, childbirth included.

But it’s not going to happen without advocates.

You – the provider who is constantly working to improve care.
You – the public hospital administrator who is trying to keep daily operations going
You – the high school senior who just started perusing feminist blogs
You – the political science major who wants to end up in Washington
You – the intake coordinator at a WIC clinic
You – the prenatal yoga teacher
You – the new mother who had the birth of your dreams
You – the parent who wants to make sure what happened to you never happens to another person

We need you.

We need you to talk about.
Write about.
Rally around it.
Advocate about it.

Because that handful of blog posts.
That deep conversation with a friend.
That personal experience you’re not sure you want to to publically share.

It’s a global human rights issue.

It’s time the world hears about it.

Your voice can help make that happen.

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