November 25 – International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

by Claudia Ravaldi

“A woman does not forget how she was treated during her pregnancy, at the time of delivery and after her delivery. Never.” November 25 marks the day to oppose and eliminate all violence against women, including midwifery violence, a taboo subject that undermines the well-being of thousands of women, couples and health care workers.

Let us not forget, when the assistance was impeccable, warm, respectful, and we years later remember with gratitude the experience we had and the people who accompanied us.

Let us not forget how much we grew as people because of that warmth and respect, and let us not forget the generous gifts he left us, that respected and therefore so deeply transformative experience.

Let us not forget, when assistance has been critical, cold, disrespectful: let us not forget the words, the expressions on faces and bodies, the gestures of annoyance, impatience or contempt. Let’s not forget, because we mammals are programmed and programmed to remember all high-stress situations off the top of our heads so we can get out of them, alive.

We do not forget, even when we would like to forget and interrupt the bitter flow that accompanies our memories.

We do not forget, not even when, to protect ourselves from anguish, our brain relegates traumatic memories to a dark corner of our memory, waiting for the day when, perhaps, we will be stronger and able to remember without fragmenting into a thousand crumbs.

We do not forget, and sometimes we try to downplay, trivialize, change the subject, to remember just a little bit without remembering everything: it is the effect of being violated, the need to escape from ourselves, to keep away from the physical sensations, emotions and dark thoughts of trauma, which dig deep chasms in everyone and everyone.

Let’s not forget: it applies always, it applies to all, because pregnancy, childbirth and puerperium are normally times of profound changes and intense stress: we mammals, we human beings, during times of stress, are both more in need of support, care and safety and more vulnerable to mistreatment.

The reminder is even more grim in the case of poor care of abortion, whether spontaneous or voluntary, in utero or perinatal death. When loss and mistreatment meet, nothing good is born: the experience of abortion or perinatal death associated with disrespectful care is no longer “just” a loss, a grief, but also becomes a trauma.

Dealing simultaneously with the traumatic effect of loss and the secondary traumatization given by poor caregiving is too great a challenge to be overcome in a few moves: and in fact, many women/couples go through multiple difficulties in processing their grief, for years, and at numerous expenses, to care for their mental health. The origin of complicated or prolonged bereavement, the origin of the increasingly frequent post-traumatic stress disorder in the perinatal setting are very often promoted by iatrogenic causes (also referred to as “system-induced trauma”) that we could very easily prevent, if only our health care systems would recognize the importance of provider training and respectful care for all expectant mothers, in all pregnancies, in all situations, including those of loss.

Obstetric violence is a system-induced trauma that we could easily prevent.

Let’s do it, together.

Attached is the text of our educational campaign, active since 2022.

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