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Complaints reveal disrespect and abuse against pregnant women

A survey carried out by the Rio de Janeiro Public Defender's Office in conjunction with the RJ Doulas Association exposed an alarming scenario of obstetric violence between 2019 and 2023.

More than thirty pregnant women reported several cases of abuse, ranging from abandonment to the lack of option to choose the type of birth, at a time that should be one of affection and safety. Recent incidents, such as a pregnant woman who gave birth on the reception floor of a maternity hospital in Duque de Caxias, highlight the seriousness of the situation.

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Another case happened in Niterói where a couple found themselves alone at the time of giving birth at the Alzira Reis Maternity Hospital.

“A lot of people try to associate this obstetric violence with a medical error, with malpractice, but it is not always associated with this. It is inappropriate conduct and can often be violent conduct”said Flávia Nascimento, coordinator of the Defense of Women's Rights at the Public Defender's Office of RJ.

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And if I was a victim, what should I do

Within the context of obstetric violence, there are several entities responsible for investigating and dealing with this situation. The victim can first report the incident directly to the healthcare establishment where the care took place, be it a hospital, clinic or maternity ward.

It is also possible to activate regulatory bodies such as the Regional Medicine Council or the Regional Nursing Council. In cases that require legal redress, the victim can turn to the Public Defender's Office or seek assistance from a private lawyer.

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Alzira Reis Maternity Hospital

Alzira Reis Maternity Hospital also has a case of obstetric violence (Source: Reproduction/Roberto Moreyra/O Globo)


For residents of Rio de Janeiro, in a joint initiative between the Rio de Janeiro Doulas Association and the local Public Defender's Office, a website was developed to receive reports of obstetric violence.

Gabriela Santoro, president of the Association, emphasizes the importance of women accessing the entity's website, providing their personal data such as name, telephone number, date of the incident and a detailed account of the experience.

What does the law say

Obstetric violence is defined by the Ministry of Health as any acts of abuse, neglect or disrespect directed at a pregnant woman or companion, which make her feel uncomfortable regarding the treatment received. These forms of violence range from denial of access to prenatal care to the use of inappropriate or disrespectful language.

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It is important to highlight that, currently, there is no specific legal protection for victims of obstetric violence in federal laws. However, there are projects being processed in the Federal Congress, such as Bill 190/23, which proposes the criminalization of abusive conduct by health professionals during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum.

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Another relevant project is PL 422/23, which seeks to include obstetric violence in the Maria da Penha Law, expanding protections against domestic violence for women.

Featured photo: doctor with a stethoscope (Reproduction/Christopher Furlong/Getty Images embed)

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Complaints reveal disrespect and abuse against pregnant women

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