‘We felt like part of a production system’: A qualitative study on women’s experiences of mistreatment during childbirth in Switzerland

Meyer, Stephanie; Cignacco Müller, Eva; Monteverde, Settimio; Trachsel, Manuel; Raio, Luigi; Oelhafen, Stephan (2022). ‘We felt like part of a production system’: A qualitative study on women’s experiences of mistreatment during childbirth in Switzerland PLoS One, 17(2), e0264119. Public Library of Science (PLoS) 10.1371/journal.pone.0264119

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Introduction Mistreatment during childbirth is an issue of global magnitude that not only violates fundamental human rights but also seriously impacts women’s well-being. The purpose of this study was to gain a better understanding of the phenomenon by exploring the individual experiences of women who reported mistreatment during childbirth in Switzerland. Materials and methods This project used a mixed methods approach to investigate women’s experiences of mistreatment during childbirth in general and informal coercion specifically: The present qualitative study expands on the findings from a nationwide online survey on childbirth experience. It combines inductive with theoretical thematic analysis to study the 7,753 comments women wrote in the survey and the subsequent interviews with 11 women who reported being mistreated during childbirth. Results The women described a wide range of experiences of mistreatment during childbirth in both the survey comments and the interviews. Out of all survey participants who wrote at least one comment (n = 3,547), 28% described one or more experiences of mistreatment. Six of the seven types of mistreatment listed in Bohren and colleagues’ typology of mistreatment during childbirth were found, the most frequent of which were ineffective communication and lack of informed consent. Five additional themes were identified in the interviews: Informal coercion, risk factors for mistreatment, consequences of mistreatment, examples of good care, and what’s needed to improve maternity care. Conclusion The findings from this study show that experiences of mistreatment are a reality in Swiss maternity care and give insight into women’s individual experiences as well as how these affect them during and after childbirth. This study emphasises the need to respect women’s autonomy in order to prevent mistreatment and empower women to actively participate in decisions. Both individual and systemic efforts are required to prevent mistreatment and guarantee respectful, dignified, and high-quality maternity care for all.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


School of Health Professions
School of Health Professions > Midwifery
School of Health Professions > Nursing


Meyer, Stephanie;
Cignacco Müller, Eva0000-0001-6773-4015;
Monteverde, Settimio0000-0002-7041-2663;
Trachsel, Manuel;
Raio, Luigi and
Oelhafen, Stephan0000-0002-4238-6728


R Medicine > RG Gynecology and obstetrics




Public Library of Science (PLoS)




Settimio Monteverde

Date Deposited:

23 Feb 2022 12:54

Last Modified:

03 Nov 2023 09:48

Publisher DOI:






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