Despite the technological leap, a number of developing countries around the world are struggling to provide the appropriate maternity care that women direly need. And this goes on to affect the health of women and their babies.
Abuse and disrespect in maternity care in developing and underdeveloped countries is not new. On the other hand, women in developed nations like the U.S., Australia and Britain get “first class” care and treatment that “all women” should get. In a latest study carried out on about 3,000 women in Kenya, Ghana and India from a mix of rural and urban areas, it was established that subtler forms of substandard care deeply affected their childbirth experiences.
Lead researcher and author of the study, Patience Afulani, an Assistant Professor at the University of California, identified “communication was most lacking”. Afulani pointed out that women in Kenya, Ghana and India said their health care providers never introduced themselves. This is very much true for India where 98% of the sample relayed they are not given information about their care and don’t understand what is happening to them. Afulani said over half reported that providers did not explain the purpose of the exams or procedures and never asked permission before performing them. She explains that this leaves the women in the dark about their care.
“Other simple things that were overlooked included how a woman was received when she arrived at the facility, and the timeliness of her care,” the study says. “Its important to immediately acknowledge the woman’s pain and do the best to control it. There is also practical help like helping her to the bed after delivery, giving her something to drink and warm water to bathe and giving her a bed with clean sheets to rest.”
Afulani says violations of basic rights in maternity care leaves bigger implications on women’s health. “Negative experiences lead to a lack of trust and poor perceptions of the quality of care in health facilities. This discourages women from seeking health care,” she said.
And this is not surprising that it contributes to high maternal mortality – many women die of complications that could have easily been managed in a health facility. Moreover, the most recent data reveals that 300,000 women died in 2015 from pregnancy-related and childbirth causes. The women were mainly from low and middle-income countries; Kenya’s maternal mortality ratio in 2015 was 510 per 100,000 live births; for Ghana and India, it was 319 and 174 respectively per 100,000 live births.
Its very sad that in many health care settings, especially in India, women and their families are disempowered to demanding respectful care. This is true for poorer, less educated women or those who have a low social status as well as cultural reasons.
The government needs to step in and ensure that respectful healthcare and treatment is not only for the privileged upperclass or those with money. Respectful and dignified healthcare and treatment is a priority for women from all walks of live.