What is Obstetric Violence?

According to an article published in Lamaze International, obstetric violence is defined as, "anytime a person in labor or birth experiences mistreatment or disrespect of their rights, including being forced into procedures against their will, at the hands of medical personnel."

Obstetric violence, an intersection between violence against women and institutional violence is felt by women across our healthcare system on an innumerable scale. In order to be able to confront and counteract the affects of obstetric violence we need to be able to identify it.

What should I know about obstetric violence?


Obstetric violence does not have a time or place where you are more or less susceptible to encounter it. Meaning you can be in your doctor's office, on the phone at home, in your labor and delivery room, in the postpartum recovery suite, during discharge and the list goes on and on. This can be at the hands of those aimed to help you (ie. medical institution. doctors, doulas, nurses, lactation counselors etc.).


In short your experience is entirely yours and therefore your violations are only yours to interpret. This means your interpretation of how/when/where your violence occurred is yours to theorize. This violence can manifest in many ways for example:

  • Forced or coerced medical interventions

  • Discrimination, implicit bias or any other racially motivated tactic

  • A feeling of being neglected/disregarded

  • Physical violence on your person or child's person

  • Hostility or verbal degradation

  • Denying care ... and much more

Check out this infographic on the International Women's Day website.

What are the effects of obstetric violence?

The effects of obstetric violence are many.

Can be including but are not limited to:

  • dissatisfied or negative outlook on yours and others birth, pregnancy and/or postpartum experiences.

  • health complications - an increased rate of mortality or morbidity

  • trauma ... and much more.

We are aware of the mortifying mortality and morbidity rates of the United States specifically as it relates to black women. The CDC released a newsletter in September 2019 that illustrated the health disparities between black and white women in the United States. Ultimately it found that black women were up to five times more like likely to die from pregnancy or pregnancy related issues.

The responsibility to take care of one another has uniquely shifted. We are now more than ever charged with the responsibility of requiring a change in healthcare for the benefit of all.

*Resources linked throughout article.


©2020 by Doula Philosophy.