Series 2, episode 4 – When birth companions are part of the problem: a story of disrespect and abuse during childbirth in Western Tanzania

A recent study conducted in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria and published in the Lancet showed that one in three women experienced physical or verbal mistreatment during childbirth in health facilities.

Adrienne Strong is a medical anthropologist and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida who studies maternal mortality and women’s health in Tanzania, and the notions of ideal comfort, care, and support for pregnant women in labour.

She observed a birth companionship programme run by an NGO in maternity wards in the Kigoma region of Tanzania in 2018. She explains how the programme designed to improve both the women’s experience of care and clinical outcomes failed to reduce  the disrespect and abuse directed at the patients. In fact, in some cases, the birth companions themselves justified the mistreatment or took part in it, targeting the very women they were meant to support.

For more on respectful maternal care from Adrienne Strong, check out her new book: Documenting Death: Maternal Mortality and the Ethics of Care in Tanzania. Strong, A. 2020;Berkeley, CA: University of California Pres, which will be available in the Spring of 2020 at this address


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