Mistreatment During Labor

Mistreatment during labor is not unheard of; in fact, it is a common thread in birth stories. How many times have you heard about a bad experience involving a labor and delivery professional? Maybe you even have your own?


“The Giving Voice to Mother’s Study” assesses mistreatment during pregnancy and labor. Several factors were considered, such as “race, socio-demographics, mode of birth, place of birth, and context of care.” Though its conclusions are not drawn from a representative sample, this study’s strength comes from reaching minorities in the birthing population. These historically underrepresented segments include mothers who birth at home, mothers who birth in birthing centers, and mothers of color. Of the 2,138 participants in the study, approximately half gave birth in their home or a birthing center. The corresponding statistic for home births in the United States, however, only totals about 1%.


Mistreatment causes plenty of issues, not just for mothers, but also for families, and society as a whole. Consider the widespread impacts of a traumatic birth, which as cited in the article, may include post-traumatic stress disorder. In this study, mistreatment was defined to include “loss of autonomy; being shouted at, scolded, or threatened; and being ignored, refused, or receiving no response to requests for help.” 


Over a Quarter of Mothers Reported Mistreatment at Hospitals

Mistreatment for home birth moms was reported at 5.1%, while women giving birth in hospital reported mistreatment at 28.1%. This may reflect the principles of midwifery care, as having a midwife was shown to be a protective factor against mistreatment.

 Women of Color Were More Than 50% More Likely to Report Mistreatment  

As in much maternal health research, the issue of racism arises. “Rates of mistreatment for women of colour were consistently higher even when examining interactions between race and other maternal characteristics. For example, 27.2% of women of colour with low SES reported any mistreatment versus 18.7% of white women with low SES.” The graph above, derived from a table in the article shows the comparative rates of any mistreatment reported when comparing race in different contexts of care. This is clearly worth further focus, and more importantly, requires action.

If any of this piques your interest, the entirety of the article can be found here.