Respected Childbirth and Its Psychological Importance

During a respected delivery, the woman feels respected, listened to, and owns her own experience of childbirth. Find out what psychological benefits this type of childbirth brings.
Respected Childbirth and Its Psychological Importance
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Childbirth is an important moment in a woman’s life as well as one in which she’s extremely emotionally vulnerable. It’s a process for which the body is prepared, but in which it’s often not allowed to act. In fact, it’s often accelerated and medicalized with excessive interventions. Furthermore, the will of the woman is annulled, which can have serious psychological consequences for her. For this reason, it’s essential that we should be aware of the importance of respected childbirth.

It wasn’t until recently that the widespread so-called obstetric violence began to become visible. Indeed, millions of women have experienced traumatic and emotionally painful births due to medical malpractice, births that today they remember as extremely negative. Even in those who managed without any apparent abuse or neglect, the interventions may have been excessive or inappropriate.

These consequences are severe and occur both in the short and long term. That’s why it’s considered that respected childbirth should be a right at all times. Let’s take a closer look.

Woman looking at her baby
With regards to respected childbirth, there are four types of respect: the physiology of childbirth, the wishes and needs of women, the rights of women as users of the health system, and the rights of the baby.

Traumatic childbirth and its consequences

A non-respected childbirth is one in which the natural development of the process isn’t permitted and the woman is deprived of her ability to know, decide, and be listened to. When this happens, she might experience the birth with feelings of great fear, anguish, and suffering.

Beyond the discomfort experienced, a series of important psychological consequences can also be triggered. In fact, the risk of postpartum depression increases considerably. This gives rise to a series of difficulties in the mother bonding with her baby. Furthermore, they may avoid becoming pregnant again or even develop tokophobia. In the most severe cases, post-traumatic stress disorder may appear.

In these kinds of cases, it’s also likely that the mother won’t receive support during the postpartum period and that her environment will minimize the negative aspects of her experience. Many of them try to cling to the idea that they already have their child in their arms so should try and forget everything that happened during childbirth. However, a change of approach would prevent these unpleasant consequences from happening in the first place.

Respected childbirth

Fortunately, increasing numbers of women, associations, and professionals are fighting and advocating for the importance of respected childbirth. Broadly speaking, it’s one in which the woman’s own body is allowed to guide the process, which takes place in a warm and welcoming environment. Under this prism, the work of health professionals is not to intervene but to accompany, observe, and supervise.

The delivery is of the woman and her baby. To guarantee this, a series of measures should be carried out:

  • To respect the physiology of childbirth, its times, and requirements. Thus, whenever possible, intervening, applying synthetic hormones, performing unnecessary caesarean sections or episiotomies, or forcing the woman to remain in positions that aren’t the most appropriate (for example, lying in bed) should be avoided.
  • To offer clear and reliable information to the mother at all times. They need to know what’s going on, if there are any complications, what options they have, and all their pros and cons. Indeed, it should be the mother’s right to decide. They shouldn’t be infantilized by professionals who make choices without their consent.
  • To welcome and respect their emotions. Allowing the expression of fear, anguish, fatigue, or pain and validating these feelings. Unfortunately, on too many occasions pregnant women are judged, criticized, or repressed in this regard.
  • To allow the woman to eat or drink if she wishes, to change position when needed, and to be accompanied by whoever she wants.
  • To respect the right of mother and child to be together after childbirth, to practice skin-to-skin contact, and to establish and enjoy breastfeeding without interference.
Woman with her son in her arms after giving birth
Respected childbirth is based on the empathetic treatment toward the pregnant woman and the baby.

A free, individual, and positive childbirth experience

If the above requirements are met, it’s far more likely that the mother will experience childbirth with less anxiety. She’ll have greater confidence in her body as well as in the professionals who are assisting her. She’ll also feel respected, listened to, and welcomed in this process that can have such a potentially enormous psychological impact.

Thus, the birth experience will be far more pleasant and the postpartum period more positive. In fact, the mother will feel more connected to her baby and more able to cope with breastfeeding and parenting in general. In addition, they’re far less likely to suffer psychological disorders triggered by the event.

Finally, respected childbirth is a right that, although is now increasingly present in today’s society, needs to continue moving in the same direction.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Creedy, D. K., Shochet, I. M., & Horsfall, J. (2000). Childbirth and the development of acute trauma symptoms: incidence and contributing factors. Birth27(2), 104-111.
  • Martinez-Vázquez, S., Hernández-Martínez, A., Rodríguez-Almagro, J., Delgado-Rodríguez, M., & Martínez-Galiano, J. M. (2022). Relationship between perceived obstetric violence and the risk of postpartum depression: an observational study. Midwifery108, 103297.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.