Sexual and reproductive health

Prevention and elimination of disrespect and abuse during childbirth

Pregnant woman in a labour room
Lieve Blancquaert

Generating data related to respectful and disrespectful care practices, systems of accountability and meaningful professional support

Health systems must be accountable for the treatment of women during childbirth, ensuring clear policies on rights and ethical standards are developed and implemented. Health-care providers at all levels require support and training to ensure that childbearing women are treated with compassion and dignity. Those health services that already provide respectful maternity care, promote participation of women and communities and have implemented processes to track and continuously improve respectful care need to be identified, studied and documented.

  • A WHO-led qualitative evidence synthesis on barriers to facility-based delivery for women in low- and middle-income countries identified that poor treatment of women is a significant barrier to attending facilities for childbirth. Reproductive Health 2014, 11:71 , See article
  • WHO is currently conducting a systematic review on definitions and forms of disrespect and abuse experienced by women during childbirth in facilities worldwide. This review will inform research on the definition and measurement of disrespect and abuse during childbirth in facilities in order to develop standardized tools to measure the prevalence of disrespect and abuse in facilities globally.

The links below are provided for information only. WHO does not necessarily endorse the views, positions or opinions expressed by the listed organizations and documents. WHO does not accept responsibility for the validity or accuracy of these materials.

Selected journal articles

Are you working on or aware of ongoing activities in the areas of respectful and disrespectful care during childbirth? Let us know at