Reducing maternal morbidity and mortality remains a key health challenge in Guinea. Anecdotal evidence suggests that women in Guinea are subjected to mistreatment during childbirth in health facilities, but limited research exists on this topic. This study was conducted to better understand the social norms and the acceptability of four scenarios of mistreatment during childbirth, from the perspectives of women and service providers.
This study used qualitative methods including in-depth interviews (IDIs) and focus group discussions (FGDs) with women of reproductive age, midwives, nurses and doctors. This study was conducted in one urban area (Mamou) and one peri-urban area (Pita) in Guinea. Participants were presented with four scenarios of mistreatment during childbirth, including a provider: (1) slapping a woman; (2) verbally abusing a woman; (3) refusing to help a woman; and (4) forcing a woman to give birth on the floor. Data were collected in local languages (Pular and Malinké) and French, and transcribed and analyzed in French. We used a thematic analysis approach and manually coded the data using a codebook developed for the project.
A total of 40 IDIs and eight FGDs were conducted with women of reproductive age, 5 IDIs with doctors, and 13 IDIs with midwives. Most women were not accepting of any of the scenarios, unless the action was perceived to be used to save the life of the mother or child. However, they perceived a woman’s disobedience and uncooperativeness to contribute to her poor treatment. Women reacted to this mistreatment by accepting poor treatment, refusal to use the same hospital, revenge against the provider or complaints to hospital management. Service providers were accepting of mistreatment when women were disobedient, uncooperative, or to save the life of the baby.
This is the first known study on mistreatment of women during childbirth to be conducted in Guinea. Both women and service providers were accepting of mistreatment during childbirth under certain conditions. Any approach to preventing and eliminating mistreatment during childbirth must consider these important contextual and social norms and develop a comprehensive intervention that addresses root causes. Further research is needed on how to measure mistreatment during childbirth in Guinea.