This emerges from research by Marit van der Pijl of the Obstetric Science Department into respectful birth care. The study involved contacts with both gynecologists and midwives. The results were published July 8 in Reproductive Health.

To find out how women in the Netherlands experience childbirth, a questionnaire was distributed via at the end of 2020. More than 13,000 women responded; the answers of 12,239 women could be included in the study. Via this questionnaire it was investigated how often women experienced care during childbirth as negative (not respectful), to what extent women were bothered by this, which women were more or less bothered by this and whether this was associated with the general childbirth experience.

Communicating better
This survey shows that a third (36%) of all women had at least one experience with the health care provider that they found unpleasant. 40% felt that they were not able to make enough choices for themselves and 30% felt that communication with health care providers was not optimal. 21% experienced insufficient support and 21% mentioned rough treatment. Marit van der Pijl: "One example is being forced to stay in bed. Other examples of situations that were experienced as unpleasant: a medical procedure that was carried out without asking permission (12%), relevant information that was not shared (21%), being forced to stay on the bed (15%) and being left alone undesirably (14%). There was great variation in the extent to which women were bothered by the situations they had experienced. For example, of all the women who could not choose which positions they wanted to give birth in, one quarter were found to be bothered by this."

Negative experience
The more negative experiences a woman had with the care provided during childbirth, the more negative her childbirth experience. In this study, 21% of women had a negative childbirth experience; in fact, half of these women experienced their delivery as very negative or traumatic. Women who had given birth for the first time and women from immigrant backgrounds were more likely to have certain experiences with birth care. The study does not reveal why this is so.

Sincere attention
Much can be gained by providing better support, better communication, and more respect for the different wishes, choices, and preferences of women, Van der Pijl says. It is important that both care providers and those who organize birth care pay attention to this and that improvement is made practically possible. For example, when there are too few caregivers, there is less time for good communication and genuine attention to each pregnant person. "Thus, more attention to respectful birth care is good for women, their children and caregivers themselves."

Read the full publication in Reproductive Health here.