15 Ways Nurses Mistreat Women During Childbirth

Whether it’s giving birth at home or at a hospital, with all the pain and possible complications, it can be quite a scary time in any woman’s life.

After nine exhausting months of dealing with swollen feet, sleep deprivation, and all those late night cravings, the pain of labor does not feel like a rewarding end for all the hard work. Feeling all the love and support from friends and family can make it all seem a little easier, but what makes everything worth it is being able to see the newborn for the first time. That is, until they cry your ears off and keep you up all night.

Sadly, there are those unfortunate moms who are stuck with nurses treating them with disrespect, and everything turns into a miserable nightmare.

In a hospital setting, having nurses and doctors working to carefully deliver the child makes it seem a great deal safer. Giving birth in a hospital has lots of advantages. It’s better for both mother and baby should something go wrong, as medical attention can be administered to either or both on the spot. When a nurse, however, is constantly being disrespectful, condescending, and walking around with that dreaded “know-it-all” attitude, it almost doesn’t seem worth it. Tough it out, it’s for the good of the baby, remember? Nurses are supposed to be kind and helpful when delivering a child, but unfortunately, there have been many cases of abusive and unkind nurses making mothers feel all the worse about childbirth. Here are 15 ways and reasons that nurses mistreat women during childbirth.

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15 Screaming And Yelling

While this is more common with midwifes, it still happens with nurses in supposedly professional hospitals. There are several reported cases where nurses or midwifes get frustrated at women who were labor for some reason or the other. There is one documented case where a nurse was upset at how loud a mother was being, yelled at her to quiet down and has also been accused of slapping the mother's leg. Thankfully, the woman didn’t quiet down and kept screaming to her heart’s content.

This is an example of a completely incompetent nurse. Childbirth is not easy. It will be loud. It will be messy. It will be frustrating. But with the amount of pain mothers endure, and all the effort they must put in, they deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. When delivering a child, being yelled at is probably one of the last things a mother wants to deal with on top of everything else.

14 Offensive Language

Of course, when in a hospital, doctors and nurses will use certain language when referring to body parts. This is usually totally acceptable, as they are medical terms and should not be taken as anything else. However, there are reports of nurses and even doctors using offensive or confusing off-colored slang terms when referring to the female anatomy. One surprising case of a doctor administering an epidural referred to a woman’s vaginal area as a “baby cannon” and a “birdie” is a good example of this.

Aside from slang terms, there are the occasional medical workers who will straight up swear inappropriately. While this may be fine for some, others find it unacceptable, disrespectful, and sometimes even offensive. For those who have their family and friends present in the delivery room, this can be even more embarrassing. It’s not all that uncommon for a woman in labor to cuss as well, but with the immense amounts of pain she’s enduring, she gets a pass.

13 Inappropriate Work Behavior

Unfortunately, it’s not all that uncommon for nurses to display extremely inappropriate work behavior while in the delivery room. One example that seems to stick the most is of a woman’s nurse who told her to hurry up because she wanted to go home. Actions like that are extremely unprofessional, and for the misfortunate women who have to deal with it, it’s also extremely upsetting.

Other inappropriate behavior such as treating women like they know nothing and belittling them at every turn is, unfortunately, also a very common occurrence. Women are generally very in tune with their bodies, and more often than not, know what they need. One woman, who knew her baby needed to come out, was told to wait over 20 minutes for the doctor to show up. Thankfully the baby was delivered safely before the doctor’s arrival. Being able to deliver a baby without a doctor present is should be within a nurse’s capabilities, so almost delaying a birth for 20 minutes doesn’t appear logical.

12 Borderline Physical Abuse

In any scenario, using physical means to harm somebody in a situation other than self defense is intolerable. Hitting or slapping somebody on a normal day is upsetting enough, but imagine being hit while giving birth to a child? Completely deplorable. Thankfully, cases of physical abuse have become infrequent and sparse in the last 50 years. One horrifying report detailed a woman who did not want to have a cesarean section birth for religious reasons. Her doctor yelled at her for making such a stupid decision, roughly yanked her legs open, and performed a very crude vaginal delivery.

There are many more terrible stories out there like this one, though thankfully, most of them end with a healthy baby and mother. Before medical procedures started to become safer and more humane, standard practice was to perform a cesarean section without anesthesia, and often times without the consent of the mother.

11 Emotional Abuse

Also referred to as psychological abuse, psychological violence, or mental abuse, emotional abuse is defined as exposing or subjecting another person to psychologically traumatizing behavior, often times resulting in anxiety, depression, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Things such as name-calling, put downs, criticism, unnecessary verbal violence, and verbal abuse all classify as emotional abuse.

The most common form of emotional abuse in the delivery room is nurses treating women like they are incompetent and don’t know their head from their rear. There are plenty of accounts of nurses yelling at women to stop pushing, (even though they needed to) and just generally speaking with rude, sarcastic tones. Many women recount their experiences, and claim that they had been so emotionally traumatized, they refuse to go back to the hospital their child was delivered in. Some who were once avid believers of receiving professional medical care now would prefer to have future children at home with family or with the help of a midwife.

10 Going Against The Consent Of The Mother

Though most women are usually quite reasonable and don’t make ridiculous requests, their wishes should be honored, no matter how absurd. Unless the baby’s or mother’s life is in any danger, and action needs to be taken immediately, there is no reason that nurses or doctors should do something without the mother’s consent. One detestable case details one woman who was berated for being unable to keep her feet in the stirrups (her legs were numb because of the epidural). Her nurse and midwife resorted to violently repositioning her legs, treating her like a ragdoll without her consent.

For this unfortunate mother, the violent movement, yelling, and name calling, gave her PTSD flashbacks of being raped in the past. Other times, nurses performed vaginal exams or inserted catheters when women specifically asked them to stop, because they were experiencing a contractions. The nurses continued on anyways, causing even more unnecessary pain to the mother. Even when other people in the room pointed out that the women were in more pain, and blatantly telling the nurses no, it did nothing to deter them.

9 Denying A Woman Medical Procedures

Unless there is a legitimate medical reason a woman can not receive medical care, it should not be denied to the mother, especially if she asks. Sadly, many women are denied even the most basic medical care, such as pain killers. For one extremely unlucky mother, a nurse completely denied her any form of painkiller for the sole reason that she did not call the hospital ahead of time, going on to tell her that pain was the best teacher. Though it would be nice to have a heads up when delivering a baby, it has never been required to “make an appointment” to have you baby. This nurse’s horrifying actions shows how uncaring certain medical professionals can be.

Over 56% of American women were denied the ability to have a VBAC delivery, even when they specifically asked. Doctors instead forced them to have a cesarean section birth, and usually had no medically legitimate reason behind it. While cesarean section deliveries may be quicker and less painful (under the right medication), there are plenty of reasons a woman may wish to have a VBAC, and they should have the right to do so.

8 Legal System Abuse

via: wordpress.com

Legal system abuse is the societal perception that the newborn baby’s rights supersedes the rights of the mother. In other words, if a procedure that can cause harm, sometimes even life threatening harm, comes to the mother, but will be beneficial to the baby, the procedure will be done more often than not. One woman in California was passed her due date, but did not want to induce labor. Waiting longer would not have caused any harm to the unborn child. Her doctor, however, threatened to call child services on her if she refused to induce.

On the other side of the country, in New Jersey, a woman previously diagnosed with depression and PTSD had custody of her newborn child taken away from her. The reason was that she would not sign a document consenting to have a cesarean section birth, and apparently that proved she wasn’t mentally fit to be a mother. Incidences like these are extremely ridiculous and unfair, and this specific woman wasn’t even given the chance to be a mother.

7 Intentional Misinformation

via: visura.co

Intentional misinformation is the practice of denying a woman the right to make an informed choice about her birth by providing misleading, false, or no information about the choices she has in terms of childbirth. Surveys show that a whopping ⅔ of women didn’t know how to respond when asked about the complications of cesarean section births, and that women who had cesarean section births were no more likely to know about them than women who hadn’t. This shows that doctors and nurses are not making an effort to disclose all information about cesarean section births that would allow a woman to make an informed decision.

False information in frequently provided to women under the pretense that cesarean births are safer and easier for both mom and baby. While this can sometimes be true, it’s more dependent on the woman and her medical history. Surgery can have terrible effects on some patients if their bodies are not equipped for it. This can ultimately lead to bad side effects and longer healing times after surgical procedures. There are lots of cases in which having a VBAC delivery would be a better option, but unfortunately many women are deprived of this knowledge.

6 Lack Of Attention

Physical and emotional comfort during childbirth should be a given. But it’s not uncommon for nurses to neglect the emotional needs of women. Many stories of nurses not caring for the needs of women by not asking if they need anything, how they are doing, or bringing pain medication upon request have been reported. Often times this leaves women feeling like they are not receiving proper care or attention.

One story of a woman who was repeatedly asking for some ice chips and repeatedly ignored is a good example of nurses neglecting their patients’ needs. In a time where women are already stressed and under a lot of pressure, also having to worry about whether or not their nurse will attend to their needs should not be a common occurrence. While it is understandable that there are lots of distractions and responsibilities nurses must attend to, making sure mom is as comfortable as possible should be a top priority, if not number one.

5 Lack Of Comfort

Hand in hand with lack of attention, lack of comfort is the more emotional aspect of attention giving, and should also be a top priority. Comforting moms by doing things like reassuring them everything is going smoothly and letting them know they are doing a great job is a good way of reducing stress in the delivery room. Many nurses forget to do this on top of all their other responsibilities, and while that is understandable, more emphasis should be made on comfort.

Comfort is also a way of calming mothers down. It’s essential that women do not have a panic attack on the delivery table as this can have unforeseen consequences on the unborn baby. Constantly being reassured is helpful, as it lets women know that they have not run into any complications so far. Being praised for a good job also makes women feel good about themselves, with in turn lowers their stress levels and makes for an easier birth. Being comforted is an important aspect during childbirth and should be given more credit.

4 Early Discharge

Typically, women get 48 hours to recover from delivery in the hospital before going home to rest. 72 if a cesarean section birth was performed. Thankfully, a majority of moms get to take home their healthy and happy babies. Some, however, suffering from side effects of an especially bad childbirth, or who have complications related to childbirth, don’t get any extra recovery time. This is because nurses are supposed to clear spaces for others as quickly as possible, and this is even more true for bigger, busier hospitals.

Many women who have complications that are non life threatening will be discharged from the hospital to deal with it on their own, as hospital beds can be in high demand. This practice should not be standard procedure as it can take women up to twice as long to fully recover from a birth related complication when left to deal with it on their own.

3 Delegation

Hospitals take a lot of money to properly maintain and keep up to standard. On top of that, paying all staff seems to take an outrageous amount of funds. In an effort to save money and reduce costs, many hospitals hire unlicensed personnel. Nurses tend to delegate many of their responsibilities to these personnel, and often times they wind up assisting with childbirth. While these people are trained and usually know how to perform standard procedures without any complications, the fact still remains that they are unlicensed and uncertified by the state.

Not very many serious problems has come out of delegation, but if a mother were to know her nurse’s assistant had not been professionally trained for this job, it may stress or out of cause unnecessary fear. Being able to trust medical professionals is a must when having a baby, as it’s relieving to know that the delivery is in safe hands. The same concept applies to a lot of areas in life. Not many people would want to eat food from an unlicensed street vendor.

2 Human Error

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Everybody makes mistakes. It’s a part of life that just has to be accepted. The fuel of nightmares for every mother, however, is when the words “whoops” or “that’s not good” are uttered in the delivery room. Nowadays nurses have many more responsibilities than they did 50 years ago. Often times they are overworked, and therefore must pay attention to some things more than others.

Nurses with too big a workload tent to work carelessly. Behavior like this is not something that should be acceptable when delivering a child. Though no fault can be put on the nurse for having too much work, that is not an excuse for getting careless. Things like tending to the mother’s needs and making sure there are no complications during labor should have priority, and these things should be done tediously to give the mother the best experience possible. Other, less important things, should be saved for a more appropriate time.

1 Failure To Perform Standard Procedure

Often times, if nurses have a quicker way of doing things, they will do it, even if it goes against procedure. Proper sanitation is commonly neglected. Hospital staff will more times than not simply wipe surfaces down with disinfectants instead of properly taking the time to clean them. In the delivery room, nurses often skip on dilation checks, and forget to take note of contraction timing. This can lead to problems like pushing too early or too late, spreading sickness faster than usual, or accidentally bringing harm to mom and baby.

Epidurals should be administered carefully and efficiently, but most nurses just try to to it as fast as possible to move onto more important things. This can lead to the epidural not working 100% properly, leaving mom in more pain that could’ve been prevented. We all take shortcuts from time to time. It’s human nature to find the quickest way to do something. This should not be done in hospitals, however, as it can cause many unforeseen complications. Standard procedures are in place for a reason.

Sources: NursingCenter.com, Dcurbanmom.com, TheStir.CafeMom.com

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