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Encountering abuse in health care; lifetime experiences in postnatal women - a qualitative study

  • Author(s): Schroll, Anne-Mette
  • Kjærgaard, Hanne
  • Midtgaard, Julie
  • et al.
Abstract

Abstract Background Abuse in health care (AHC) has been associated with potential severe health consequences, and has further been related to maternal morbidity and mortality in childbirth. To improve our understanding of what qualifies as AHC and to support and optimise the health of women with these experiences, the objective of this study was to describe how women, who had previously endured AHC, gave meaning to and managed their experience during pregnancy, childbirth, and in the early postnatal period. Method Women, who had reported substantial suffering as a result of a previous experience of abuse within the healthcare system, were purposefully selected from a Danish sample of a multinational cohort study on negative life events among pregnant women (the BIDENS Study). Eleven women were interviewed individually by means of a semi-structured interview guide. Transcripts of the interviews were analysed by means of qualitative systematic text condensation analysis. Results Four categories were identified to describe the women’s experience of AHC and its consequences on pregnancy and childbirth: abusive acts of unintentional harm, dehumanization, bodily remembrance, and finding the strength to move on. Abuse in health care may have profound consequences on the reproductive lives of the women, among others affecting sexuality, the desire to have children and the expectations of mode of delivery. However, the women described constructive ways to manage the experience, to which healthcare professionals could also contribute significantly. Conclusions Regardless of whether AHC is experienced in childhood or adulthood, it can influence the lives of women during pregnancy and childbirth. By recognising the potential existence of AHC, healthcare professionals have a unique opportunity to support women who have experienced AHC.

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