A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sheds light on the disturbing mistreatment experienced by women during maternity care in the United States. Shockingly, the study reveals that one in five women reported mistreatment during their experience. Upon further analysis, it becomes evident that certain demographics, including Black, Hispanic, and multiracial women, face even higher rates of mistreatment compared to their counterparts. This alarming disparity warrants urgent attention and action to rectify the mistreatment of women in maternity care.
The study identifies several types of mistreatment commonly reported by women. The most frequently reported experience was being ignored by healthcare providers or having their requests for help denied. This lack of attention and denial of care is deeply concerning, as it highlights a disregard for the well-being and concerns of pregnant women. Additionally, the study reveals that women also reported being shouted at, violations of physical privacy, and threats regarding treatment or unwarranted care. These distressing experiences demonstrate a clear violation of a woman’s right to respectful, fair, and equal care during pregnancy and delivery.
The study also uncovers high levels of discrimination during maternity care. Overall, nearly 30% of women reported experiencing discrimination, with even higher rates among Black, Hispanic, and multiracial women. Discrimination based on age, weight, and income were the most common forms reported. These findings underscore the urgent need for healthcare professionals to provide unbiased and respectful care to all mothers, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or socio-economic background.
The study highlights the alarming increase in maternal death rates from 2018 to 2021. Rates have jumped from 17.4 to 32.9 per 100,000 live births, with specific racial and ethnic groups experiencing higher rates of pregnancy-related deaths. Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, Black, and American Indian and Alaska Native individuals face disproportionately high mortality rates compared to their white counterparts. Disturbingly, approximately 80% of pregnancy-related deaths are preventable. It is evident that experiences of racial discrimination have been shown to contribute to pregnancy complications, further emphasizing the urgent need for improved maternity care.
A crucial aspect highlighted by the study is the communication challenges between patients and healthcare providers during maternity care. Approximately 45% of respondents reported suppressing questions or refraining from expressing concerns during their care. Reasons for this included the belief that their feelings were normal, being told so by friends and family, embarrassment, not wanting to make a fuss, fear of being perceived as difficult, and observing that healthcare providers seemed rushed. These barriers to effective communication hinder the provision of adequate care and must be addressed to ensure the well-being of pregnant women and their infants.
To prevent pregnancy-related deaths and enhance the quality of maternity care, healthcare systems must implement various strategies. Implicit bias training for healthcare providers, recruitment of providers from diverse backgrounds, and the integration of midwifery models and doulas into maternity care are essential steps that can be taken. By addressing biases, diversifying the healthcare workforce, and incorporating alternative models of care, the healthcare system can work towards providing unbiased, respectful, and high-quality maternity care for all women.
Recognizing the urgent need for change, the CDC has launched the Hear Her campaign, which offers resources to help women and their support networks effectively communicate their concerns during maternity care. The campaign also aims to raise awareness of life-threatening warning signs, ensuring that patients are aware of when immediate care is required. This initiative plays a pivotal role in empowering women and advocating for their rights and well-being during pregnancy and delivery.
Although the study provides valuable insights, it is essential to consider its limitations. The survey was conducted on an “opt-in” basis, lacking probability sampling or weighting, which may limit the representativeness of the results for the entire U.S. birthing population. Furthermore, recall bias may have influenced the responses obtained. Additionally, the survey was only conducted in English, potentially excluding the experiences of non-English fluent individuals. Further research is necessary to gain a more comprehensive understanding of maternity care experiences across diverse populations.
The CDC study exposing the mistreatment of women during maternity care in the United States is a wake-up call for the healthcare system. The alarming rates of mistreatment and discrimination, particularly among Black, Hispanic, and multiracial women, demand immediate action. By addressing these disparities, improving communication between patients and providers, and implementing inclusive and respectful care strategies, the healthcare system can pave the way for better maternal outcomes. Every woman deserves dignified, equitable, and compassionate care during pregnancy and delivery, and it is our collective responsibility to make this a reality.