This year thank to "International Women's Day Edinburgh", who have been working all year to create a `femifesto´and organize the march and activities for the day, childcare included, and all the people supporting it. I had the opportunity to raise awareness on OBSTETRIC VIOLENCE and a list of discriminatory facts that women born with uterus experience within the medical system. This has made lots of us to find support in one another and alternative therapies that can help us to self-manage our reproductive health and emotional wellbeing.
You can find down this page what was said....
Birth is a very important life-changing experience for people who decide to gestate and become parents. Birth, breastfeeding and pregnancy are part of many women´s sexuality and also very connected to their physical and emotional wellbeing. These natural processes have been subject of control and domination from the patriarchal medical system, that wants to control our bodies and of course our sexuality and reproductive rights.
The fact that women potentially empower themselves through their birth experiences (whatever the experience is, as long as their choices are respected and they feel in charge) makes birth susceptible of external control and institutional abuse. This empowerment does not match well with the cultural idea of submissive and infantilise women that are mostly seen as sexual objects or devoted mothers.
OBSTETRIC VIOLENCE: is a particular modality of discrimination and violence against women that may affect women, transversally, during pregnancy, birth and postnatal. It is an intersection between institutional violence and violence against women, and it occurs both in public and private medical premises.
There are also other factors that add more inequality to the equation such as race, cultural background, income, sexual orientation or health status.
It is clear that obstetric violence is a violation of the Human Rights Act.
Obstetric violence can be manifested through:
• Verbal humiliation: such as degrading treatment, infantilisation, use of hierarchical power, bullying or pushing women in a certain direction during the decision-making process, use of fear as a controlling tool, etc.
• Physical violence:like abusive use of medication, invasive and unnecessary practices, physical mutilation or long term pelvic floor and sexual organs damage, denying women instincts about their needs and their bodies and make them feel that their bodies have failed them, restrain, etc.
• Forced and coerced medical interventions:Detention in facilities for failure to pay, dehumanization and rude treatment, menaces, denying medical support if the choices do not match the hospital politics, etc.
• Discrimination based on race, ethnic or economic background, age, HIV status, gender non-conformity, among others.
Unfortunately, obstetric violence is an often overlooked and normalized type of violence against women. The extreme consequences of obstetric violence are degrading inhumane childbirth, health complications, severe psychological distress, trauma, PTSD following birth, and in some cases death due to neglect.
Other side effects are the higher risk of postnatal depression and mental health problems, difficulties in bonding and breastfeeding, isolation, feeling that their bodies have failed them, guiltiness and shame.
Trauma in childbirth has been reported in the literature as far back as 1993 (Kendal-Tackett et al). It has been estimated to affect 1 in 3 women (Creedy et all 2003).
Another form of intersection between institutional violence and violence against women is the assumption that the female body is an exception to the normalised male body. In this context, we find discrimination and dismissal of illnesses that affect specifically people born with a uterus.
Menstrual pain is seen as a normal consequence of periods, specifically female conditions such as endometriosis take a very long time to get a diagnose, side effects of medications are very often not tested in women, hormonal imbalance related conditions and pain is normally addressed with artificial hormones, without women being properly informed about side effects.
It is now time for us to reclaim our body autonomy and demand more research on female-specific conditions. It is time for us to be the main subjects of our health and our births. We claim for respect and appropriate care that respects our informed choices."