'Obstetric Violence' Should Be Stopped Everywhere

For a country where midwifery doesn't even exist alongside obstetricians, Venezuela seems to have really gone to bat for laboring women. Their Organic Law on the Right of Women to Live a Life Free of Violence covers a wide variety of issues with some very specific situations to prevent domestic violence against women.

One issue they tackle specifically is given its own special name: Obstetric Violence.

According to their law, the following things fall under Obstetric Violence:


1. Untimely and ineffective attention of obstetric emergencies. In other words, interfering too soon, too late, or just failing to take proper precautions. I think this could be a toughie to enforce, but I think it really shines the light on preventing creation of emergencies as well.

2. Forcing the woman to give birth in a supine position, with legs raised, when the necessary means to perform a vertical delivery are available. Laying on your back with your legs up is about the least effective position to ever birth in, probably only second to hanging upside down from your ankles. It makes birth take longer, closes the pelvis, creates tears, works against gravity (which helps your body get correct signals). Unless the mother wants to lay down, or there is some medical reason she needs to, women should be upright as much as possible, and this law means that a woman should NEVER be forced to lay down against her will or without necessity, to protect her body and baby.

3. Impeding the early attachment of the child with his/her mother without a medical cause thus preventing the early attachment and blocking the possibility of holding, nursing or breastfeeding immediately after birth. The initial connection, especially physical, between mother and infant is actually crucial to the infant's health, and babies need to initiate breastfeeding within the first hour after birth, barring medical emergencies.

4. Altering the natural process of low-risk delivery by using acceleration techniques, without obtaining voluntary, expressed and informed consent of the woman. In other words, never using induction methods unless the woman asks for them without suggestion or pressure, and making sure she is actually informed of what she's asking for first ... and not just by having her sign a piece of paper that says things she won't read in the heat of the moment.

5. Performing delivery via cesarean section, when natural childbirth is possible, without obtaining voluntary, expressed, and informed consent from the woman. Much like the above, doctors are not allowed to offer or suggest unnecessary procedures, much less push them, and the woman must be made aware of the real dangers and risks of what she's asking for before they consent to unnecessary medical interventions.

Pérez D’Gregorio, President of Venezuela's Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology says of the state of current practices that spurned the need for the laws:

[It is] contrary to good obstetric practice, whereby medication should only be used when it is indicated, the natural processes should be respected, and instrumental or surgical procedures should be performed only when the indication follows evidence-based medicine.

I wish these rules were adopted in the US, where women are abused and pressured every single day to get induced, and doctors force them flat on their backs and tell them to hurry up and get the kid out, and where our c-section rates keep rising and rising, and rather than fixing it, the blame ends up falling on WOMEN, who are told to just stand up for themselves.

During birth, a woman CANNOT stand up for herself. One of the ways you can tell how far into labor a woman is is by her inability to speak and concentrate on anything but her own body and feelings. In fact, constant legal battles happen all the time to show that verbal or hastily-written consent from a woman in labor is not legally binding, as people cannot commit to agreements when they are not in a sound state of mind. I'm feeling another post entirely coming on here, but suffice to say, women NEED protection during birth from people other than themselves and I hope this law spreads and helps treat birth more as a natural procedure that ONLY needs doctors when it's not going correctly, and puts a stop to treating birth like an assembly line.

Go Venezuela.

What do you think about their description of violence?

Image via Cirofono/Flickr

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