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The Giving Voice to Mothers Study

Inequity and mistreatment during pregnancy and childbirth in the United States

Families of color experience high rates of mistreatment by health care providers during birth, finds this first-ever look at the birth experiences of people of color and the first ever community led study on experience of childbirth care in the United States.

Overall, one in six women - regardless of race - experience mistreatment by health care providers during birth.

Top experiences of mistreatment included verbal abuse, stigma and discrimination, and delays and refusals in care.

Delays and refusals are particularly significant given that Black birthing people and their babies have the highest rates of death from pregnancy-related complications.

Indigenous women were the most likely to report experiencing at least one form of mistreatment by health-care providers, closely followed by Hispanic/Latinx and Black women.

This article is based on the upcoming Giving Voice to Mothers Report. To learn more or be kept up-to-date, please visit here.

Press Release

Download the Press Release

Find media contact information and the press release here.

Full Article

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Find the full, open-source article from Reproductive Health.

Voices of Birthing Families

Before I switched to a birth center, one military midwife was disrespectful of our cultural needs and refused to accept them. When I mentioned my desires, I was belittled and made to feel incompetent. 

Hispanic woman who gave birth in California

The doctor who refused to test me for an amniotic fluid leak and instead tested me for an STD test I had already received during the pregnancy / I believe his assumption that I was leaking something due to an STD rather than a pregnancy complication was due to race and put my life and my newborns life at risk - I went a week leaking fluid after I had went in to get it checked out. I worry that Doctor is still discriminating against other mothers and they are receiving negligent care as well. 

Black woman who gave birth in California

I was told I was hurting my children and being selfish because I wanted to have a vaginal delivery. Both children were in head down birth position. I was forced into a cesarean by my OB. 

Indigenous woman who gave birth in Texas

The doctor who performed my c-section was hateful, rude, rough and threatening.

Indigenous woman who gave birth in Oklahoma

[I was] forced to be in a hospital because of having Medicaid which led to many interventions and being bullied/talked down to until I agreed. This pregnancy we saved up for a midwife so I can have a home birth.

Indigenous woman who gave birth in New York State

The amount of times I felt coerced into decisions or was mocked or rushed. Overall it was a very dehumanizing and frustrating experience .....my original ob/gyn practice was rude and insulting to me and said that I risked having child protective services being called if I refused antibiotics due to being GBS positive.

White woman who gave birth in NJ

The forced episiotomy. The doctor didn't care, refused to give me medication because my episiotomy, Nurse XX from XX told me to get over it and gave me lube & told me to do anal sex instead! That's the care we’re getting in Southern California if you are not insured & have to rely on Medical insurance.

Hispanic woman who gave birth in California

When I refused to be induced-even after I was a couple days "overdue" I seriously started to feel like *I* was the problem. It was horrible.

White woman who gave birth in Iowa at 24; some college but no degree; she had OB care

I hated being shouted at and lied to by the midwife.. I never dreamed that a woman would treat a laboring woman that way. She was abusive and downright mean. I was refused food and water for 26 hours. I wasn't allowed to move out of bed to walk around. I felt like I lost my autonomy over my own body. I had given up and I remember weeping when my son was born. I was at least glad he was safe. I felt like a child and I felt so unlike my usual self. These professionals broke my spirit.

Hispanic woman who gave birth at a in hospital birth center inside a hospital at age 26 in North Carolina; some college, but no degree

The way I was treated during postpartum. If I was given adequate support with breastfeeding and actual education about it, I feel I would have been successful outright instead of struggling for months, and if I was not judged for being a younger mom, I would have felt safe and secure.

South Asian woman who gave birth in Nevada

One nurse, whom we otherwise really liked, made comments generalizing about people by race (e.g., "you Asian women all tear during birth"). It wasn't done in a judgmental way but I would have preferred that she not say such things.

East Asian woman

I was offered WIC repeatedly though I explained that I did not qualify. I believe it was because I am Latina and my partner black that we were repeatedly offered WIC.

Hispanic woman with Black partner in New York

Help #endbirthmistreatment. Share the facts today.

New! Impact of place of birth on mistreatment

How does place of birth impact mistreatment? Do families that transfer to the hospital after a planned home birth experience different rates of mistreatment than planned hospital births?

Learn more in these new fact sheets.

Place of Birth

Transfer Status

Citation

Vedam, S., Stoll, K., Taiwo, T. K., Rubashkin, N., Cheyney, M., Strauss, N., . . . & the GVtM-US Steering Council. (2019). “The Giving Voice to Mothers study: Inequity and mistreatment during pregnancy and childbirth in the United States”. Reproductive Health, June 11, 1-18. DOI: 10.1186/s12978-019-0729-2

Media Coverage:

Community Partners

The Steering Council included several community partners. The Birth Place Lab team was honored to work with them throughout the entire project. We are indebted to them and their communities for their leadership and participation.

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