Letter to the “Respectful Maternity Care” Movement in Hungary
For the last decades, increasing concerns about the abuse and the disrespect of women during childbirth have been expressed through research and policy making.
The WHO has also shown concern about the excessive medicalization of birth since 1985 when it made recommendations for assisting normal birth and delivery urging administrators and health personnel to review protocols and continuously investigate the relevance of certain practices. Besides, it has been promoting respect for women’s autonomy and perspective when making health judgements and also emphasizing the basic legal principle of informed consent.
Non-profit organizations struggling for women’s rights and for gender equality had the opportunity to introduce themselves at a programme organized by Palantír Film Foundation in Budapest. Our Association also took part in the programme, we were interviewed about our work and had the opportunity to send a message to Romani women on the occasion of the International Women’s Day.
The strategic aim of our project is to make Hungarian maternity care transparent and equally accessible, providing service based on fair treatment and evidence-based practice. Furthermore, our goal is to empower women to take part in their pregnancy and childbirth actively and find the right support for themselves, encouraging them to take the first step for the sake of their own and their children’s well-being. Our project offers personalized, complex support for women in accordance with their own resources and real needs.
Our activity is located mainly in Budapest, where we organise monthly workshops called ‘EMMA Műhely’ (EMMA Hub), covering the topics of pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum period, providing safe atmosphere where women can find supportive community, have an opportunity to process their negative experiences, exchange practical tips and gain trustworthy information. On every occasion we encourage women to give written feedback to the system, since change can be achieved only if women give their opinion to professionals and decision-makers. We are pleased to see that even such professionals, midwives and students appear at our workshops, who also believe in the change of the system and a woman-centered care.
Optimal maternal and infant health is critical to societal well-being. Reducing childbirth mortality and severe morbidity is a primary concern for most governments. However, this focus on pathology has been associated with an over-extension of clinical interventions to low risk women, with unexpected adverse clinical consequences, and rising health care costs. Part of the problem has been a scientific focus on understanding pathologies of pregnancy and childbirth from simple, clinical, linear perspectives, with a consequent lack of understanding of the range and limits of normal childbirth physiology in different populations, individuals, and contexts. The proposed Action will advance scientific knowledge in this area from a whole-systems perspective, using the realist research framework of what works, for whom, in what circumstances. It will include five domains:
1. Biomedicine (epigenetics and the hygiene hypothesis); 2. Biomechanics (maternal and fetal movement); 3. Socio-cultural perspectives (social expectations and experiences, including marginalised and migrant populations); 4. Organizational perspectives (the effect of organizational contexts and cultures on variation in rates of childbirth interventions) 5. Neuro-psycho-social perspectives (how inter-personal actions and behaviours affect physiological processes).
“Here’s what I’d like to ask you to do, especially if you are in the habit of mocking women who know their rights in childbirth. Support choice whenever possible. Empower women. Listen. Learn. Don’t be part of the problem. Don’t tell her her birth isn’t important or that she is stupid or selfish for caring about it. Be part of the solution. Maybe one day women won’t have to make these birth plans that you feel only exist to annoy you. Maybe one day we’ll live in a world where birth is safe. Don’t criticize the woman who fights for her birth. Stand by her side and fight with her.”
The WHO urges collaboration for dignified and respectful maternity care
The WHO has issued a statement supporting women’s fundamental human right to the highest attainable standard of care during pregnancy and childbirth, including a treatment that fully respects human dignity.
The neglectful, disrespectful or abusive treatment that disregards women’s autonomy violates women’s fundamental rights, and has an adverse effect on the physical and mental health of women and their children. Consequently, it jeopardizes the well-being of families and the entire society.
The WHO calls decision makers, health care professionals, researchers, activists, civil organizations and women themselves to step up collectively against all forms of obstetric violence.
BirthHouse Association supports the statement with its signature, and invites all concerned stakeholders for cooperation. We urge the professional and political decision-makers to commit themselves to improving the Hungarian maternity care into an evidence-based, woman-centered model of care which follows the current and previous WHO recommendations and embraces women’s right to informed consent.
Visegrad-Balkan Public Policy Fund Young Researchers Programme
Report on the extra activity, March 7-8 2014, Budapest
During her second stay in Budapest, Elena Anchevska’s paper was presented at a public event, organized at Gólya community centre on March 7 2014. On March 8 2014 Elena Anchevska gave an interview to Eszter Harsányi, journalist of the local radio station Tilos, for the radio show „Drágám, hol a vacsorám?” which was later broadcasted on March 19, 2014. Continue reading Public presentation of Elena Anchevska’s policy paper→