May 21st 2020“COME ON, SMILE! This is the most important day of your life.” The midwife was upbeat. But Agustina, a 38-year-old comedian and brand-n
“COME ON, SMILE! This is the most important day of your life.” The midwife was upbeat. But Agustina, a 38-year-old comedian and brand-new mother, was shaken. It was 2012; she had just undergone a Caesarean section at a hospital in Argentina. Her obstetrician, she believes, had made the surgery more likely by inserting hormones into her vagina during a check-up, without explanation.
Two men performed the dangerous Kristeller manoeuvre, pushing down on her belly. She fainted. An assistant lightly slapped her face to keep her awake. Another tied her arm to the bed. None of it felt right. But, she says, “I thought the doctor is like your boss: you do what he tells you.”
Her ordeal was not unusual. Surveys in Latin American countries have found that between a quarter and a third of women who give birth suffer abuse at some point in the process. In one from 2016, 24% of Mexican women reported abuse in their last childbirth and 17% reported non-consensual care. A common form of mistreatment was humiliating comments by staff, reported by 7% of women. Other bad practices were withholding of painkillers without explanation (which 5% of women experienced) and forced contraception and sterilisation after childbirth (4%). A tenth of women who had C-sections said they had not given consent. Very young, unmarried and poor women in public hospitals were likeliest to suffer. Activists…