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Experiences with obstetric violence among healthcare professionals and students in Spain: A constructivist grounded theory study

      Abstract

      Background

      Obstetric violence appears to be a worldwide concern and is defined as a type of gender-based violence perpetrated by health professionals. This violence undermines and harms women’s autonomy. In Spain, 38.3 % of women have identified themselves as victims of this type of violence.

      Aim

      To explore current information and knowledge about obstetric violence within the Spanish healthcare context, as well as to develop a theoretical model to explain the concept of obstetric violence, based on the experiences of healthcare professionals (midwives, registered nurses, gynaecologists and paediatricians) and nursing students.

      Methods

      A constructivist grounded theory study was conducted at Jaume I University in Spain between May and July 2021, including concurrent data collection and interpretation through constant comparison analysis. An inductive analysis was carried out using the ATLAS.ti 9.0 software to organise and analyse the data.

      Results

      Twenty in-depth interviews were conducted, which revealed that healthcare professionals and students considered obstetric violence a violation of human rights and a serious public health issue. The interviews allowed them to describe certain characteristics and propose preventive strategies. Three main categories were identified from the data analysis: (i) characteristics of obstetric violence in the daily routine, (ii) defining the problem of obstetric violence and (iii) strategies for addressing obstetric violence. Participants identified obstetric violence as structural gender-based violence and emphasised the importance of understanding its characteristics. Our results indicate how participants’ experiences influence their process of connecting new information to prior knowledge, and they provide a connection to specific micro- and macro-level strategic plans.

      Discussion

      Despite the lack of consensus, this study resonates with the established principles of women and childbirth care, but also generates a new theoretical model for healthcare students and professionals to identify and manage obstetric violence based on contextual factors. The term ‘obstetric violence’ offers a distinct contribution to the growing awareness of violence against women, helps to regulate it through national policy and legislation, and involves both structural and interpersonal gender-based abuse, rather than assigning blame only to care providers.

      Conclusions

      Obstetric violence is the most accurate term to describe disrespect and mistreatment as forms of interpersonal and structural violence that contribute to gender and social inequality, and the definition of this term contributes to the ongoing awareness of violence against women, which may help to regulate it through national policy and legislation.

      Keywords

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