Document Type



Community Health Sciences


Background: Attainment of healthcare in respectful and dignified manner is a fundamental right for every woman regardless of the individual status. However, social exclusion, poor psychosocial support, and demeaning care during childbirth at health facilities are common worldwide, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. We concurrently examined how women with varying socio-demographic characteristics are treated during childbirth, the effect of women's empowerment on mistreatment, and health services factors that contribute to mistreatment in secondary-level public health facilities in Pakistan.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was conducted during August-November 2016 among 783 women who gave birth in six secondary-care public health facilities across four contiguous districts of southern Sindh. Women were recruited in health facilities and later interviewed at home within 42 days of postpartum using a WHO's framework-guided 43-item structured questionnaire. Means, standard deviation, and average were used to describe characteristics of the participants. Multivariable linear regression was applied using Stata 15.1.
Results: Women experiencing at least one violation of their right to care by hospital staff during intrapartum care included: ineffective communication (100%); lack of supportive care (99.7%); loss of autonomy (97.5%); failure of meeting professional clinical standards (84.4%); lack of resources (76.3%); verbal abuse (15.2%); physical abuse (14.8%); and discrimination (3.2%). Risk factors of all three dimensions showed significant association with mistreatment: socio-demographic: primigravida and poorer were more mistreated; health services: lesser-education on birth preparedness and postnatal care leads to higher mistreatment; and in terms of women's empowerment: women who were emotionally and physically abused by family, and those with lack of social support and lesser involvement in joint household decision making with husbands are more likely to be mistreated as compared to their counterparts. The magnitude of relationship between all significant risk factors and mistreatment, in the form of β coefficients, ranged from 0.2 to 5.5 with p-values less than 0.05.
Conclusion: There are glaring inequalities in terms of the way women are treated during childbirth in public health facilities. Measures of socio-demographic, health services, and women's empowerment showed a significant independent association with mistreatment during childbirth. At the health system level, there is a need for urgent solutions for more inclusive care to ensure that all women are treated with compassion and dignity, complemented by psychosocial support for those who are emotionally disturbed and lack social support.


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PLoS One

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.