A woman in Alabama was about halfway through her fourth pregnancy when a bright new marketing campaign persuaded her to abandon the hospital she had gone to for her three previous births in favor of Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham. Brookwood advertised a personalized birth plan with high class birthing suites, and promised that the staff would honor any requests.
However, that is not what happened when this new mother arrived to give birth. She claims that rather than the tranquil and empowering experience she was promised, she was a victim of “obstetric violence.” The term, which is still a relatively new concept but old problem here in the US, refers to actions by the medical staff, such as harassing or bullying new mothers into medical interventions, including cesarean sections, epidurals and episiotomies.
The mother is now suing Brookwood Medical Center and its parent company Tenet Health for medical malpractice and fraud. She claims the “bait and switch” tactic employed by the company has left her both physically injured and psychologically traumatized. She says she has not recovered, and still sees a therapist and takes medication for panic attacks.
How Common is Obstetric Violence?
The woman in Alabama is just one of thousands that are forced or coerced into agreeing to medical interventions they don’t want while giving birth. Obstetric violence is a new but fast-growing term in the US, but has had legal weight in other countries for some time now.
Other examples include a case in California in which a woman sued her obstetrician for assault and battery after he forced an episiotomy on her, and a New Jersey mother claiming to have been pushed into a C-section she didn’t want.
More and more women across the country are beginning to speak out about obstetric violence and the negative impact it has had on their lives.