When Birth is Violent

When Birth is Violent - Wild World Mama

When birth is violent.

Birth violence can be painfully obvious or insidiously subtle.

Violence in birth is deeply woven into our US maternity care system. Common practices are all too often seen as “normal”. It may be common, but it is not “normal” and just because it happens all the time does not make it “ok”.

What is birth violence? 

Birth violence can be the manual tearing or cutting of a women’s genitals for no medical reason or a reason based on “this is how we’ve always done it” with no backing in evidence.

Birth violence can be the dismissal of a woman’s cries to “stop” or telling her that her baby will die if she says no to you in times when that is not true.

Birth violence can be the “gentle” and unnecessary stroking of a labia when a mother is birthing her child.

Birth violence can be the tugging and pulling on newborn’s heads for no apparent reason.

Birth violence can be the gaslighting that many experience. The “just be happy you have a healthy baby”, the “I’ll allow you’s”.

Birth violence can be prematurely severing the built-in lifeline of a newborn for no medical reason.

Birth violence can be denying a woman access to her newborn child.

Birth violence can be the forceful tugging and removal of the placenta, for no other reason than “efficiency”.

Birth violence can be vaginal exams performed without asking.

Birth violence can be the starvation of women in labor.

Birth violence can be the “you’re scaring the other women giving birth” the “shut up or I’ll shut you up” talk to women during their most vulnerable moments.

Birth violence is the “bait and switch”. The “yes, you can VBAC” with no real intention to “allow” a VBAC. The pulling the rug out from underneath them, using every little excuse to chip away at a mother’s self-confidence as birth gets closer.

Birth violence is the internalized misogyny in the stories spewed by other women around her and even her own self.

Birth violence is the dismissal of a person of color’s concerns about how they feel physically and emotionally. Not believing women in birth is birth violence.

Birth violence is the pushing of a major abdominal surgery as the “safer” option in cases when it is not.

Birth violence is casually medically inducing women for no medical need without fully informing them on ALL the risks, benefits, alternatives. Birth violence is making the decision for them based on hospital policy, insurance, personal fear of litigation and not the well-being of mother or child.

Birth violence is giving women risky medical interventions unnecessarily and without fully informed consent.

Birth violence is the god complex at play in birthing rooms.

Birth violence can be denying women supportive care like a doula.

Birth violence is not respecting a mother’s choices in birth, no matter what those might be.

Birth violence is blaming women for their own demise, harm, trauma.

Birth violence is state laws actively repressing safe options by making midwifery care “illegal” and other healthcare options for women “illegal”. Birth violence can be powerful organizations like medical societies lobbying for less options.

Birth violence is viewing women as incompetent of making informed decisions in the best interest of them and their child’s wellbeing.

Birth violence is the distrust, shame, eye-rolling and “gossipy” degrading talk at nurse’s stations about a women’s decisions. The laughing at birth plans is birth violence.

Birth violence is forced medication and forced birth positions. Birth violence is listening to the doctor’s commands to inject or convince/coerce her over that woman’s own voice saying “no”.

Birth violence is continuing to touch a woman when she vocalizes she does not want to be touched.

Birth violence is a “routine” cervical check turned into an unconsented breaking of her water or membrane sweep.

Birth violence can be subtle, it can be obvious.


Birth trauma is often not the result of the act of childbirth itself, but of the “care” they received and the environment around them when they gave birth.

The way we treat women and birthing people during this monumental moment in life is a direct reflection of the health of our society as a whole.

If birth is violent, why would we think the consequences of that doesn’t trickle into every crevasse of our world as we know it.

It does. In subtle and obvious ways.

Birth matters. Mothers matter. Support matters.

Prepare like your life and your child’s life depends on it. Be informed. Surround yourself with support. You MUST be your own advocate, because YOU fucking matter mama, YOU MATTER.

Kristen, @wildworldmama

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Kristen Mantell

Kristen Mantell

Creator of Wild World Mama, LLC
Professional Graphic Designer & Website Developer turned Birth Advocate

DONA-Trained Birth Doula
Formally Certified Birth Boot Camp Instructor

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