Pondicherry Journal of Nursing
Volume 15 | Issue 3 | Year 2022

Respectful Maternity Care: The Right of Every Woman

Annie Annal Mohan

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecological Nursing, Kasturba Gandhi Nursing College, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, Puducherry, India

Corresponding Author: Annie Annal Mohan, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecological Nursing, Kasturba Gandhi Nursing College, Sri Balaji Vidyapeeth, Puducherry, India, Phone: +91 8870238133, e-mail:

How to cite this article: Mohan AA. Respectful Maternity Care: The Right of Every Woman. Pon J Nurs 2022;15(3):65–67.

Source of support: Nil

Conflict of interest: Dr Annie Annal Mohan is associated as the Assistant Editor of this journal and this manuscript was subjected to this journal’s standard review procedures, with this peer review handled independently of the Editor-in-Chief and his/her research group.

Received on: 07 July 2022; Accepted on: 30 August 2022; Published on: 31 December 2022


Women have a right to demand respectful maternity care (RMC). However, it is common in many circumstances for maternity care to be disrespectful. Women’s care should be based on ethical principles and respect for human rights, and the approaches that acknowledge women’s preferences and needs should be encouraged. It refers to the care provided to all women which upholds their dignity, privacy, and confidentiality; assures their freedom from abuse and mistreatment; and provides them with the information they need to make an educated decision; and receive ongoing support during labor and delivery [World Health Organization (WHO)].

Keywords: Respectful maternity care, Rights, Quality care.


The provision of care that is safe, courteous, and allows women to maintain their dignity and sense of control is the fundamental element of high-quality maternity and newborn care.1 Safe motherhood which focuses on the promotion of health and prevention of morbidity and mortality, must be expanded to respect for women’s basic human rights.2 Women have a right to demand RMC. However, it is common in many circumstances for maternity care to be disrespectful.3

World Health Organization stated that “every woman has the right to the greatest possible quality of health, including the right to dignified, respectful care during pregnancy and childbirth,” for the avoidance and eradication of disrespect and abuse during childbirth.3,4 Women’s care should be based on ethical principles, respect for human rights, and approaches that acknowledge women’s preferences and needs should be encouraged.5


It refers to care provided to all women that upholds their dignity, privacy, and confidentiality, assures their freedom from abuse and mistreatment, and provides them with the information they need to make an educated decision and receive ongoing support during labor and delivery (WHO).5,6


Maternal and neonatal death rates have decreased over the past few decades, and there has been notable improvement made in maternal and neonatal healthcare worldwide.7 The standard of services offered has increased as a result of strengthened legislative frameworks, efficient clinical procedures, and programmatic best practices. Despite these advancements, not everyone has access to high-quality services, particularly in underdeveloped nations during pregnancy and childbirth.5,8,9


The White Ribbon Alliance released the components of RMC including “respect for women’s autonomy, dignity, empathy, privacy, confidentiality, feelings, choices, and preferences, including companionship during maternity care and continuous care during labor and childbirth and also prevention of harm and ill-treatment.”10


In reality, disrespect and abuse can take many different forms, from overt instances of physical violence to more subtle (and possibly unintended) behaviors.11 For instance, more overt behaviors can involve slapping a woman during labor by a medical professional or forcibly detaining her in the hospital due to unpaid bills. Being punished, suffering interventions without the availability of information, consent, or shared decision-making, and being denied privacy are examples of more subtle behaviors.11

Inadequate privacy, committing damaging acts, lack of knowledge regarding the care offered, insufficiently informed consent, denying the ability to choose a birth position, verbal abuse (insults, threats, extortion, and intimidation), no preference for a partner, abandoning the care of (leaving the woman alone or unattended), insufficient confidentiality denying food and drink during giving birth, preventing freedom of movement while working, discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, color, or economic circumstance, separation of the mother and child after delivery that is not essential, physical mistreatment (hitting/slapping), The woman is being held in the facility because the facility costs have not been paid.6,12,13


Twelve aspects of RMC include preserving women’s dignity, avoiding injury and abuse, maintaining privacy and secrecy, and providing potential information and obtaining informed consent. Assuring ongoing access to family and community assistance and enhancing the standard of the surrounding environment and resources. Providing fair maternity care, engaging in good communication, respecting women’s decisions that increase their ability to give birth, and having access to qualified and motivated human resources are all important. Continuity of care; efficient and effective care delivery.14,15

Strategic areas to aid in developing a methodical, evidence-based strategy for delivering high-quality care are as follows:


Training staff in interpersonal communication skills, transforming values and attitudes, establishing quality improvement teams, monitoring disrespect and abuse, staff mentoring, improving privacy in the wards (by placing curtains or partitions between the beds), improving staff conditions (by offering tea to those working shifts), maternity open days, community workshops, and mediation/alternative dispute resolution.16,17



The abuse of pregnant women is not an isolated episode, but rather a symptom of larger problems with the healthcare system. A potent weapon against mistreatment is educating women about this right and empowering them to speak up for themselves.19,20


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