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Help midwives heal from Obstetric Violence

A sentitization campaign to help midwives prevent and heal from Obstetric Violence related mental distress

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Written by DeletedUser

In no more than 3 sentences, please tell us who your idea is designed for and how it reimagines the new life experience.

Midwives and midwifery students suffer enormously from Obstetric Violence, and are often caught within a system that does not fully respect human rights in childbirth. Many are traumatised from witnessing obstetric violence or depressed from feeling accomplice, some leave their jobs because of trauma and burnout. We aim at helping midwives become aware of the consequences that obstetric violence has for them too , giving them tools to prevent abuse. Empowered Happier Midwives for better births!

Obstetric violence, which includes disrespect and abuse during childbirth, is an important human rights issue affecting the lives and health of millions of women and babies. It has been defined as “…the appropriation of the body and reproductive processes of women by health personnel, which is expressed as dehumanized treatment, an abuse of medication, and to convert the natural processes into pathological ones, bringing with it loss of autonomy and the ability to decide freely about their bodies and sexuality, negatively impacting the quality of life of women.” (1) 

Midwives may be both accomplices or victims of obstetric violence. This form of structural gender violence has an enormous impact on their work and health. Many professionals leave their job or change professions to avoid being witnesses of obstetric violence, others suffer from mobbing when they try to defend women´s human rights in childbirth (2, 3).  

The Declaration of the World Health Organization (September 30, 2014) on "Prevention and Eradication of disrespect and abuse during childbirth" called for:

. Greater support from governments and development for research and action

. Programmes to improve the quality of maternal health care, with a strong focus on respectful care

. Greater emphasis on the rights of women to dignified, respectful healthcare through pregnancy and childbirth

. The generation of data related to respectful and disrespectful care practices, systems of accountability and meaningful professional support

. The involvement of all stakeholders, including women, in efforts to improve quality of care and eliminate disrespectful and abusive practices

The Association Birth is Ours (El parto es nuestro) was founded by 21 mothers and a father in 2003.  The main aims of the association included to provide psychological support to women recovering from caesareans and traumatic births,  to improve maternal and infant care in Spain promoting respect for WHO recommendations and human rights related to reproductive health and elimination of discrimination against women, to provide information on physiological, emotional and social aspects of reproductive health and perinatal care, to decrease the rate of unnecessary caesareans and traumatic births, increasing maternal satisfaction and to recover mother´s and families central role as protagonists in childbirth promoting perception of childbirth as a physiological process to banish fears and interventions that are not evidence-based. In 2006 Birth is Ours started a specific online support group for birth attendants and the list is now a safe place for professionals to debate and disclose about obstetric violence. Currently El Parto es Nuestro is the leading organization for Human Rights in Childbirth in Spain and has opened groups in Ecuador, Argentina and Uruguay. 

Since the Spanish association was founded, we have witnessed malpractice, abuse of power and obstetric violence in the reports submitted by users, families and health professionals in Spain.

In November 25 of 2014 a multidisciplinary organisation was created to act as a watchdog in Spain that works exclusively for the eradication of obstetric violence. OVO stands for "Observatory of obstetric violence” which is a multidisciplinary body, composed by five specialists in obstetric violence. OVO was created by the association El Parto es Nuestro and remains dependent of it. Its purpose is to publicly report the incidence of malpractices that constitute obstetric violence, whose victims are not only women and those around them, but also the professionals dedicated to the health and care of women in all stages of motherhood (3)

OVO's objectives are to serve as a channel of communication between health institutions, professional groups and associations of users, to promote collaboration among these three sectors and in doing so achieving the eradication of obstetric violence, acting as an organ of collection, analysis and disseminating information concerning obstetric violence, while looking for ways to network with international organisations with similar objectives, and that is why we are here today. OVO's main actions include collecting testimonials from users who have suffered obstetric violence, publishing an annual report on the incidence of obstetric violence in Spain and the practices that usually constitute it.

Through OVO's website: mothers are provided with the possibility of filling in an online questionnaire,  and health professionals have the possibility of sharing their experiences of working in violent environments and sharing their proposals to prevent and / or eliminate it. Which also serves as data for OVO. OVO and other Watchdog organizations for the eradication of obstetric violence founded in Chile, Colombia, Argentina and France allied and created InterOvo, to work together towards the end of such type of gender violence.

Currently we are very aware of the need of developing specific interventions aimed at professionals to eradicate obstetric violence. In May 2014 we developed an online survey where midwives described the enormous impact obstetric violence had on their work and health, a huge burden of suffering and trauma. Many professionals reported leaving hospitals or clinical practice to avoid obstetric violence (4) .

This project aims at developing a sensitization campaign directed to midwives with the specific goals of:

  1. Helping them understand and identify obstetric violence´s consequences for their own health, specifically their mental health.
  2. Helping them prevent it by developing their own support resources and networks for prevention and eradication of obstetric violence
  3. Empower midwives so they can prevent obstetric violence and stand by labouring women and their babies and families providing best evidence based care.  
  4. Promote healthy work environments in the delivery room or places where birth is attended that include both mother and professional´s needs to have safe and respectful deliveries.


(1) Perez D'Gregorio R. Obstetric violence: a new legal term introduced in Venezuela. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 2010 Dec;111(3):201-202.

(2)  Olza Fernández I. “PTSD and obstetric violence”Midwifery Today, Midwifery Today Int Midwife. 2013 Spring;(105):48-9, 68.

(3) Villarmea, S., Olza I., Alcalde A. El parto es nuestro. El impacto de una asociación de usuarias en la reforma del sistema obstétrico de España. Dilemata, 7 (2015) 157-183

(4)Ruiz Berdun, MD; Olza, Ibone. The past and the present of obstetric violence in Spain”.VIJornadas Internacionais De História Da Psiquiatria E Saúde Mental,Editors: Ana Leonor Periea, Joao Rui Pita, pp.97-104, 2016.

At what stage is your idea?

  • Prototyping: I have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing my idea.

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

El Parto es Nuestro has been working on erradicating obstetric violence since 2003. Several campaings have been developed and the Observatorio de Violencia Obstétrica was created in 2014.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Skills to develop an international campaign, networking, having feedback from world experts and activists in human rights in childbirth. To talk about obstetric violence to professionals without them feeling offended is quite a challenge.

Tell us about your work experience:

I am a perinatal psychiatrist and a childbirth activist. I co-founded El Parto es Nuestro in 2003.I started a perinatal psychiatry program at a Univeristy Hospital in Madrid, Spain. Currently I research psychological aspects of birth and childbirth trauma as well as obstetric violence.

This idea emerged from...

  • An organization or company

Are you an expecting, new, or experienced mom?

  • yes

Are you a healthcare practitioner?

  • yes

Are you a current employee of UCB Pharmaceuticals or Sutter Health?

  • no


Join the conversation:

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Hi @DeletedUser ,

Great to see you in the Challenge! Could you share potential next steps to develop your Idea, or resources you would find helpful to begin to prototype your Idea? Do you have one program that you would want to focus in on within this important topic?

Catherine Charbonneau has an Idea also in the Challenge for a campaign that addresses obstetric violence. It may be nice for you two to connect!

Looking forward to learning more!

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Hi Lauree
Thanks for the comment! We would like to make a video addressed to midwives. We know there have been several campaigns about OV in Latinoamerica, that could be very useful for Catherine Charbonneau to loolk at, I will share with her. We at El parto es nuestro do continous work educating women men and society about obstetric violenc, but this time we want to focus more specifically on midwives as we think they suffer enormously from this and empowering them will help erradicate the problem. A shore tv or media add may be a good way to start our campaing, we previously carried out research on the topic.
Thanks for your interest!

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