Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

Respectful maternity care: A multidisciplinary roundtable

May 30, 2018 @ 11:30 am - 2:00 pm

Respectful maternity care







In the last decade, there has been a gradual change in the field of maternal global health. In addition to the traditional focus on reducing maternal mortality, there is a new emphasis on fostering respectful maternity care. A growing body of literature documents various forms of ‘disrespect and abuse’ occurring in labour wards around the world, seemingly especially pronounced in low and middle-income countries. Declarations regarding the rights of childbearing women have been formulated by the WHO and international organisations, typologies of abuse (e.g. verbal abuse; physical abuse) have been developed, and interventions are being rolled out. However, not much is known yet about how to best promote respectful care. Few studies have hithereto studied RMC interventions. What works, for whom,
under what circumstances? What are the potential unintended consequences? And, to what extent do generic ‘rules’ regarding respectful care fit local realities on the ground, and how do they translate in the various social, economic and political contexts? We seek to reflect on such questions in this roundtable, which seeks to bring together anthropologists and other social scientists, medical practitioners and public health specialists.

The roundtable is open to both students and staff. Attendance is free but registration is mandatory. To register, email Hayley Murray: H.K.Murray@uva.nl before May 15th.

Please also inform her whether you will attend lunch, and if so, whether you have any dietary


  • 9:30-10:00 Coffee, registration & welcome
  • 10:00-10:30 Empathic Communication and Respectful Maternity Care. Prof. Neil Prose, co-director Cente for Global Health, Duke University.
  • 10:30-11:00 Translating respectful maternity care in Malawi: Mind the gap. Dr. Bregje de Kok, assistant professor, Anthropology/Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam.
  • 11:00-11:20 Coffee
  • 11:20 Reflections by discussant I Prof. Jeanette Pols, Socrates Professor in empirical ethics in care, Anthropology and Amsterdam Medical Centre, University of Amsterdam
  • 11:30 Reflections by discussant II. Dr. Joyce Browne, Assistant Professor of Global Health, Utrecht Medical Centre.
  • 11:40 Responses by Neil Prose & Bregje de Kok
  • 11:50 Roundtable: Open discussion.
  • 12:30 Lunch

More Information: 

Where: Centre for Social Sciences in Global Health/AISSR

Roeterseiland Campus, B/C building, B5. 12
For campus map see: https://tinyurl.com/y76vx5sm

When: 30th May 2018,


Empathic Communication and Respectful Maternity Care

Neil S Prose

In the past decade, disrespect and abuse during pregnancy and childbirth has been the subject of extensive study in a number of low and middle-income countries in Africa and Latin America. Research teams have documented varying degrees of physical and verbal abuse, stigma and discrimination. In many cases, women were not afforded privacy during the labour and birth process, nor allowed to have a family member or other companion present during delivery. In this brief talk, I will describe two interventions designed to increase the level of empathic and respectful maternity care. The first is a learning session for midwives and health extension workers, which has been presented throughout Ethiopia as part of a national project on maternal and child health. The second is a communications skills seminar for midwifery students at the University of Aysen, in Chilean Patagonia. In each case, I will touch on some basic linguistic and cultural challenges, an overall philosophy of empathic communication, and the ways in which the power of the individual story, as portrayed in testimonial videos of women who encountered obstetric violence, can create the foundation for a powerful learning experience.


Translating respectful maternity care in Malawi: Mind the gap.
Bregje de Kok

When Napier University, Edinburgh and the Association of Malawi Midwives (AMAMI),
developed a Respectful Maternity Care intervention in Malawi, early formative research led to
some puzzling findings. In a survey, high percentages of women reported to have experienced
‘disrespect & abuse’ (e.g. being shouted at, slapped), but an equally high percentage reported
to be satisfied with their care. There clearly was a need for more in-depth, qualitative
ethnographic research into the meanings of ‘good’ care and respect. In this team ethnography, we conducted observations in labour wards in government facilities in central Malawi. In addition, in interviews and focus groups we discussed experiences of care and perceptions of respectful care with midwives, women who recently gave birth, and their guardians, that is,
relatives who accompany women to the facility and provide basic care. Our discussions point to various translation issues and misunderstandings, and a disconnect between midwives and
women. Equally, some of the universal respectful care principles seem to jar with local
possibilities, priorities and local notions of good care. In this presentation, I will present our
preliminary findings and reflect on what this may mean for respectful maternity care
interventions and research.


May 30, 2018
11:30 am - 2:00 pm


Roeterseiland Campus,
Roeterseiland Campus, B/C building, B5. 12
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1078 GZ
+ Google Map