A Woman's Right to Dignified, Respectful Healthcare During Childbirth: A Review of the Literature on Obstetric Mistreatment

Umber Darilek
  • Issues in Mental Health Nursing, November 2017, Taylor & Francis
  • DOI: 10.1080/01612840.2017.1368752

A woman's right to trust her care team during childbirth

What is it about?

This paper is an examination of the phenomena of women experiencing maltreatment, lies, abuse, coercion, and pathologization of the natural processes of birth in the hospital setting.

Why is it important?

Women place their trust in the medical system when they give birth. From a vulnerable position, women must be able to trust that the treatment they receive will honor their inherent dignity, autonomy and well-being. Sometimes they experience the opposite. Physicians, midwives, nurses and staff are committed to providing safe and dignified care, so it is important that we examine the phenomena to see where the experience can be improved.


Umber Darilek
UT Health, San Antonio

When I became pregnant with my first child, I was an American aid worker living in a developing country. In my spare time, I learned from local midwives about their practice. I visited patients and was astounded by the level of intimacy and respectful care women experienced in the hands of the midwives. As I looked into where to give birth to my baby, I talked to many women in North and Central America who had experienced cesarean sections they felt were unnecessary, who felt abused and disrespected by the medical establishment. Given my experience with the midwives, I found this surprising. I gave birth in the best hospital in the country. It offered a yearly cash prize to the physician who brought in the most cesarean cases. The outcome of this was unsurprising. I am a peri-natal nurse and doctoral student of nursing research interested in the experiences of and perceptions of abuse of dignity, autonomy and reproductive health among women and nurses and providers.

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