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Disrespectful intrapartum care during facility-based delivery in sub-Saharan Africa: A qualitative systematic review and thematic synthesis of women's perceptions and experiences

Bradley, S., McCourt, C., Rayment, J. & Parmar, D. (2017). Disrespectful intrapartum care during facility-based delivery in sub-Saharan Africa: A qualitative systematic review and thematic synthesis of women's perceptions and experiences. Social Science and Medicine, 169, pp. 157-170. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.09.039


The psycho-social elements of labour and delivery are central to any woman's birth experience, but international efforts to reduce maternal mortality in low-income contexts have neglected these aspects and focused on technological birth. In many contexts, maternity care is seen as dehumanised and disrespectful, which can have a negative impact on utilisation of services. We undertook a systematic review and meta-synthesis of the growing literature on women's experiences of facility-based delivery in sub-Saharan Africa to examine the drivers of disrespectful intrapartum care. Using PRISMA guidelines, databases were searched from 1990 to 06 May 2015, and 25 original studies were included for thematic synthesis. Analytical themes, that were theoretically informed and cognisant of the cultural and social context in which the dynamics of disrespectful care occur, enabled a fresh interpretation of the factors driving midwives' behaviour. A conceptual framework was developed to show how macro-, meso- and micro-level drivers of disrespectful care interact. The synthesis revealed a prevailing model of maternity care that is institution-centred, rather than woman-centred. Women's experiences illuminate midwives' efforts to maintain power and control by situating birth as a medical event and to secure status by focusing on the technical elements of care, including controlling bodies and knowledge.

Midwives and women are caught between medical and social models of birth. Global policies encouraging facility-based delivery are forcing women to swap the psycho-emotional care they would receive from traditional midwives for the technical care that professional midwives are currently offering. Any action to change the current performance and dynamic of birth relies on the participation of midwives, but their voices are largely missing from the discourse. Future research should explore their perceptions of the value and practice of interpersonal aspects of maternity care and the impact of disrespectful care on their sense of professionalism and personal ethics.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2016, Elsevier. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Publisher Keywords: Disrespect; Abuse; Childbirth; Sub-Saharan Africa; Respectful maternity care; Facility-based delivery
Subjects: R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences
SWORD Depositor:
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