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The Birth Rape Phenomenon

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"Birth rape," the term used to describe violent and disempowering experiences that occur during labor and delivery, is a hotly debated topic within many mom circles. Momlogic recently covered the phenomenon of orgasmic birth, in which some women experience extreme "ecstasy" and even reach orgasm during labor. Birth rape is the exact opposite.

woman giving birth
In an article that first appeared on Salon.com, activist Amy Reed further defined birth rape as, "when an instrument or hand is inserted into a woman's vagina without permission, after which the woman feels violated." She goes on to say, "Fingers, hands, suction cups, forceps, needles and scissors ... these are the tools of birth rape, and they are wielded with as much force and as little consent as if a stranger grabbed a passerby off the street and tied her up before having his way with her." Some new moms even report having post-traumatic stress disorder after delivery.

There is a lot of backlash regarding the term, and some question whether or not it is an appropriate use of the word "rape."

Moms, share your stories. Do you agree with the term?


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30 comments so far | Post a comment now
Nicole  October 26, 2010, 5:54 AM

Ugh… Come on people!

Kristen October 26, 2010, 6:10 AM

You know people need to read a few books about women dieing from HORRIFIC childbirth, then maybe they will shut up. Another thing, if we didn’t live in such a sue happy nation maybe doctors and nurses would be a little more caring, but if ANYTHING happens to the baby they will be sued, so they ALWAYS have to err on the side of caution.

Shawnee October 26, 2010, 6:22 AM

Yeah, seriously. That’s not rape. That’s a traumatic birth.

Sarah P. October 26, 2010, 6:24 AM

I think that if someone who had gone through a real rape read this, they’d be offended.

Jennifer October 26, 2010, 7:52 AM

People should really click on the link, then the link for the essay, before even thinking to comment on this.

I can immediately think of three friends who had AWFUL birth experiences- due completely to cold uncaring dr’s. One had a c-section done by a dr. who refused to listen to any of her concerns, also had her membranes painfully w/o warning or consult, another who had a FEMALE dr. stitch up her episiotomy WRONG then had to wait over 6 mos for insurance to approve the corrective surgery, and yet another who had an anesthesiologist callously refuse to numb her or let her husband in while inserting a catheter (while screaming and writhing). It’s not the birth that is the assault on these women, it’s the medical professionals who impose their will w/o even warning them w/ whats coming. The bedside manner is nearing extinction.

I’m soooo thankful that most of my nurses and my dr. were FANTASTIC. And I have nothing but sympathy for those who weren’t as fortunate.

Pamala October 26, 2010, 9:45 AM

I’ve actually read this essay and while the experiences are just wrong in general to use the term rape seems just wrong. Seriously calling it assault is more accurate to be honest. Rape? Hardly. I think people use the term rape to bring up emotion and assault doesn’t bring up that much emotion.

Anonymous October 26, 2010, 10:38 AM

HARDLY anything even close to rape. People now are just always looking for a new “trauma” to have. This will guaranteed be the new “depression” or “restless leg syndrome”

Fingers, hands, suction cups, forceps, needles and scissors … these are the tools
Yes, the tools FOR GIVING BIRTH! What did you think you’d have? A TV Birth where no drugs are required, there is little to no pain and in 2 minutes, 2 pushes and no intervention the baby is out? Wake up to reality - giving birth is no fun - that’s why it’s called being in “labor”

Carol October 26, 2010, 10:54 AM

So if a women has a baby in the breach position - then what an automatic C-Section becasue God forbid he uses an instrument to turn the baby around?
Or the baby gets tangled in the cord?

ss October 26, 2010, 11:00 AM

I also disagree with the term rape being used here but I do not disagree that experiences like this are traumatic. These women aren’t saying they’re traumatized by having to have a c-section because their baby is breach.

They’re talking about having painful medical procedures done to them without their consent. They’re talking about being treated like an object. A doctor should never cut, tear, inject, insert, etc… without saying to you, “I’d like to do xzy because of suchandsuch,” and then letting you respond FIRST.

A woman who is conscious should be consulted about what’s going to be done to her body next. Period. It only takes a few seconds and makes all the difference.

I think birth trauma is a much better term, though.

Anonymous October 26, 2010, 11:16 AM


THey’re talking about having painful medical procedures done to them without their consent.

When you enter a hospital to give birth one of the forms you sign gives consent for dr/nurses to intervene medically - so you’ve already given consent.

Anon October 26, 2010, 12:45 PM

This is insane. What a disservice to all the women in the world who suffer from real rape.

KS October 26, 2010, 4:45 PM

Yes I do. I didn’t at first because I’ve been sexually assaulted. Then I looked into it as well as delving deep into the world of obstetrical research from the perspective of the mothers experience as well as what’s supposed to be “normal” birth practices.

It’s quite shocking the amount of assaults an sexual assaults women have experience at the hands of OB’s.

All of your naysayers need to think of this. What do you actually think the quality of maternal nurturing is from a mother who is physically scarred and suffering from postpartum depression as well as Post Traumatic Stress disorder? All unnecessarily at the hand of an abusive care provider.

All women need to realize that if they were treated differently during their birth their overwhelming want for the epidural would not exist for many and the cascade of intervention would be prevented. Those of you commenting who have not clue as to what I’m talking about need to inform yourself then revisit this topic.

MICHELLE October 26, 2010, 7:42 PM

This is why I had a private doctor. When I couldn’t have a private doctor & went thru a larger medical group, I made sure I only saw my doctor for visits. I built a relationship with her to be sure she knew what my wishes and expectations were for labor & delivery. We had an agreement that even if she was not “on call” she was to still be there to deliver. She was on vacation the week I was due & she spent the day at Disneyland & when she got the call at 3am, she rushed to the hospital just in time to “catch” him when he came out at 3:20am. Then stayed with me for another hour visiting. Some of the nurses were not the greatest but I wasn’t in the best of moods to be a judge of bedside manner. They were rushing to get everything ready since he was crowning when I arrived. Labor was given the name becouse it is work for the mother & the hospital staff. I have had 5 babies(2 mine & 3 surrogates)1 c-section, they were all a unique experiences but I would never call a procedure wanted or unwanted= Rape!

Anonymous October 26, 2010, 10:18 PM

Consultation? Seriously? I hate to break it to some of you, but there isn’t necessarily the time for consultation. The middle of labour is not the best time for a doctor to sit down at your side with a glass of iced lemon tea and begin going over your options. When in labour, two lives, at least, are at the risk of being lost. Those deaths can occur right in the middle of such ‘consultations’. Please show some appreciation for the medical professionals who save your lives and bring your babies into the world. People in many other countries around the world have no such care and attention and they die because of its lack as do their babies. I’m sure many of those women would like to be ‘raped’ in such a manner.

ss October 27, 2010, 9:52 AM

I really don’t think these women are talking about being upset that their doctors got their babies out safely. They’re talking about having their vaginas cut with no medical reason while they scream, “No! Stop!” and are held down and cut anyway. There’s a big difference.

KS October 27, 2010, 10:08 AM

Anonymous, do you actually know the real rate of complication? Do you know the rate of fetal heart decels associated with the use of pitocin? Do you know what it is like to be raped? Do you know what it’s like to tell a care provider NO then have them stick an instrument in your vagina against your will anyway sometimes with the help of nurses?

Labor and delivery are not medical emergencies. Labor and delivery is a natural normal life event that would go much more smoothly for many more women if they felt safe, respected and were free to comfort themselves any way they felt necessary. Women have the right to refuse to consent to any procedure at any time. No means no. Not when you say no while your in labor your simply hormonal and not thinking clearly and the good doctor knows best.

During the course of a labor there is time to consult with a patient. Wait for a contraction to subside then speak to the woman with clear and concise language. When she indicates her wishes any and all care providers are to honor those wishes without interjecting their personal bias.

MICHELLE October 27, 2010, 6:45 PM

Anonymous(10:18),
You talk to your doctor in their office during your 9mths of office visits! Not right when you go into labor.

“Rape” is a term used for a sexual assualt. As far as I’m concerned child birth(picture perfect or not)is not sexual or an assault reguardless of what medical procedure used to assist in giving birth. A good doctor/patient relationship is built over time. I’ve seen the same ob/gyn for several years, she knows how much I hate epidurals & I’m only to get one if I have to go in for an emergency c-section.

Cheryl October 28, 2010, 10:16 AM

Really, does the term “rape” really need to be associated with birth? Women need to stop analyzing so much! These doctors only do what is best for the mom and baby to ensure the outcome is happy and their lives are not in danger.
Oh, and I don’t believe the “orgasmic” birth exists either!

Steph October 28, 2010, 11:00 AM

Could some of this be mitigated by choosing a midwife instead of an OB? Or better yet, a home birth attended by a midwife.

Personally, I didn’t care what my doctor had to do to get my babies out healthy, he could have pulled them out through my nose for all I cared. The nine months of increasing discomfort and outright pain of carrying them was much worse than anything my dr. did (and I had two c-sections) during delivery. But if you’re personally concerned about all this, look into other options and the rate of interventions between OBs and midwives.

Mary October 30, 2010, 10:32 AM

I think women get pregnant and for the most part, they’re happy and excited about it. From the moment they see that little plus sign, they’re already thinking of a baby. They’re not thinking of everything between now and the end result, just the baby.

We go out and buy up baby books, join websites, and watch TLC. Every milestone is monitored and tracked, we learn a new language filled with things like stretch mark, trimester, & mucous plug.

These books describe child birth with words like discomfort, pressure, ache, etc. They lull you into a false sense of security. TLC shows a pregnant mom and then a complete family all in a sterile 30 minute package.

What these books/shows don’t tell you about is the person who delivers quickly and tears, needing 30 stitches. They don’t tell you about what it actually FEELS like when a vacuum is used to help pull your baby out.

I think rape isn’t the right term to use here, it’s not rape. I think women are being misled to believe that things go a lot smoother than they really do.


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