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Journal Article


Collins EC, Burns ES, Dahlen HG. Women Birth 2024; 37(4): e101631.


(Copyright © 2024, Elsevier Publishing)






BACKGROUND: Obstetric violence, including unconsented interventions, coercion and disrespect, violates human rights; impacting the physical and psychosocial health of women. The perspective and experience of midwives related to obstetric violence have been explored in low and middle-income countries, with limited research into the experience of midwives in high income nations.

AIM: To explore Australian midwives' perspectives of obstetric violence.

METHODS: Thematic analysis of qualitative in-depth interviews with 15 midwives experienced in supporting women during birth. Critical feminist theory underpinned each stage of the research.

FINDINGS: Interviews with 15 Australian midwives from diverse care settings were analysed thematically. Four key themes were developed from the data: 'the operationalisation of obstetric violence', 'the impact of obstetric violence' 'the historical and situational context' and 'hope for the future'. Midwives considered entrenched patriarchal structures and gender inequity as fundamental to the occurrence of obstetric violence. This societal scaffold is intensified within health care systems where power imbalances facilitate maternal mistreatment through coercion and grooming women for compliance in the antenatal period. Fragmented care models expose women to mistreatment with continuity models being protective only to a point. Midwives experience their own trauma, as a result of what they have witnessed, and due to the lack of support they receive when advocating for women.

CONCLUSIONS: Obstetric violence occurs in Australian maternity systems with unconsented interventions, overmedicalisation, coercion, and disrespect observed by midwives. Care-related trauma impacts on the mental health of midwives, raising workforce concerns for policy makers, consumer advocates and professional bodies.

Language: en


Qualitative research; Birth; Disrespect and abuse; Gender equity; Mistreatment; Obstetric violence


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