A NEW study has found out that one-third of women in three West African countries and Myanmar experienced mistreatment and were vulnerable around the time of birth.
The study published in The Lancet on Wednesday was led by the World Health Organisation (WHO) with the support of USAID and other United Nations agencies including UNDP, UNICEF, and UNFPA.
The prevalence of mistreatment during childbirth was in regard to a community-based survey with 2,672 women in four countries- Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria- and continuous labour observations in the three West African countries.
A total of 2,016 women were subjected to labour observations where 408 were Nigerians, 682 from Guinea and 926 Ghanian.
Among the 2,016 women observed, 838 experienced physical or verbal abuse, discrimination and neglect by health care workers. In order words, 42 per cent of the women experienced mistreatment which also includes performing caesarean sections and vaginal examinations without their consent.
Thirteen per cent of the cesarean sections and 75 per cent of the surgical cuts to the vagina were performed without consent. In 59 per cent of cases, vaginal examinations were performed without consent.
In addition, 762 of the 2,016 women were observed to experience high levels of verbal abuse with the highest proportion in Nigeria where 262 of 408 observed women were abused: most often, being shouted at, scolded and mocked.
“Physical and verbal abuse peaked 30 min before birth until 15 min after birth,” the report stated.
Also based on the survey, the report revealed that 945 of 2,672 surveyed women experienced physical or verbal abuse and stigmatisation.
Younger and less educated women were identified to be most at risk.
To tackle the issue of mistreatment, the report noted that the health systems should be held accountable while sufficient resources should be in place to provide quality and accessible maternal health care.
Health-care providers also require support and training to ensure that women are treated with compassion and dignity, it added.
“The findings of the study should be used to inform policies and programmes to ensure that all women have a positive pregnancy and childbirth experiences, supported by empowered healthcare providers within well-functioning health systems.
“Action is urgently needed to enhance the provision of respectful maternity care worldwide”.