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White Ribbon Alliance

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RESPECTFUL MATERNITY CARE: THE UNIVERSAL RIGHTS OF CHILDBEARING WOMEN The Distinctive Importance of the Childbearing Period In every country and community worldwide, pregnancy and childbirth are momentous events in the lives of women and families and represent a time of intense vulnerability. The concept of “safe motherhood” is usually restricted to physical safety, but childbearing is also an important rite of passage, with deep personal and cultural significance for a woman and her family. Because motherhood is specific to women, issues of gender equity and gender violence are also at the core of maternity care. Thus, the notion of safe motherhood must be expanded beyond the prevention of morbidity or mortality to encompass respect for women’s basic human rights, including respect for women’s autonomy, dignity, feelings, choices, and preferences, including choice of companionship wherever possible. By design, this document focuses specifically on the interpersonal aspects of care received by women seeking maternity services. A woman’s relationship with maternity care providers and the maternity care system during pregnancy and childbirth is vitally important. Not only are these encounters the vehicle for essential and potentially lifesaving health services, women’s experiences with caregivers at this time have the impact to empower and comfort or to inflict lasting damage and emotional trauma, adding to or detracting from women’s confidence and self‐esteem. ...
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