Thursday, 28 March 2013

What do 'Human Rights in Childbirth' look like?

When you think of ‘Human Rights in Childbirth’ – what do you see?

Do you see a certain kind of birth?

Do you see a certain image?

Do you think that it is not about you?

Human Rights in childbirth means that a pregnant woman’s basic rights and freedoms are the same as any other person.  A woman cannot have these rights removed simply for being pregnant or based on where she lives, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or any other status.  Women can expect appropriate care. ‘Appropriate care’ means that the psychological and physical welfare of a woman is protected. Women shall be treated humanely. Women shall receive care based on the best evidence available rather than based on routine hospital policies - which do not treat women on an individual basis and are sometimes shown to do more harm than good. Appropriate care means a woman is respected in making decisions which will affect her and her baby.

Human Rights in childbirth affects all women, in all types of care.  And these rights must be protected equally.

Unfortunately, at times, these rights can be denied. This is often called a ‘breach’ or ‘violation’ of human rights. Some women who have given birth instinctively feel they have been denied their rights, that something just didn’t feel right. Others may not be sure.

What does a human rights violation look like?

Sometimes, women say they picture a human rights abuse in extremes. AIMSI hear women say all the time “my birth wasn’t that bad compared to others”. In reality, a breach of rights can look a lot more subtle.  Some examples of Human Rights breaches in childbirth are: having an examination or procedure done without your permission, cutting you without asking, or breaking your waters without giving you the full information. Breaches can also be how you were treated. Were you listened to? Were your choices respected? How were you treated? Were you cared for and treated  in a  dignified and respected manner? Were you given information on important decisions during your labour and birth? Sometimes, seeking your permission can be implied. For example: “I am just going to give you some help” as they are cutting you. This is not consent and is a breach of your rights. 

Any denial of a woman’s rights is not OK.

What does Human Rights in Childbirth look like?

The right to choose your hospital.

The right to choose your care provider, doctor or midwife.

The right to choose who supports you in labour – birth partner(s)

The right to choose the type of care for your birth: public, semi private, private consultant led,  midwife led (MLU, DOMINO) in hospital, or home birth.

The right to be an active member in decision making during your pregnancy, labour and birth.

The right to be given all the necessary information – benefits and risks – of a test, treatment, or procedure to help you make a decision. Benefits and risks means that any possible side-effects are explained to you, both for and against. You should also be given the opportunity to discuss 'doing nothing' - asking for more time before making a decision and if there any alternative suggestions you can try.

The right to give your consent, the right to more time, and the right to refuse.

The right to have your concerns and preferences respected.

The right to be treated in a dignified and compassionate manner.

The right to have enough staff to look after you.

The right to privacy.

The right to have pain relief, or not.

The right to have maternity care which is based on best evidence available.

The right to a second medical opinion.

The right to make decisions on the care of your baby.

The right to equality – all women are treated the same.


A recent decision by the European Court of Human Rights found that it is a basic right for women to decide the terms on which she becomes a parent. That means women have the right to decide where and how she gives birth. If you feel your rights were denied, AIMS Ireland would like to support you. AIMS Ireland will help you in a complaint. We also have legal experts who can talk to you and provide you with advice. Additionally, our legal experts can assist in a legal complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. AIMS Ireland wants to hear from you if you feel your human rights were breached in any way during your pregnancy, labour and birth. We are interested in collecting stories from women with a view to publishing them. Your voice matters and your story  will help gain awareness and protect women’s rights.

If you would like more information on any of the issues here please contact us at

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