Oct. 9 (UPI) -- More than one-third of women in four lower-income countries are mistreated -- including being punched or forced to undergo non-consensual procedures -- during childbirth, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.
The U.N. agency published the findings of its 2016 study on childbirth in Ghana, Guinea, Myanmar and Nigeria in the journal The Lancet.
WHO found that 42 percent experienced physical or verbal abuse, stigma or discrimination. Of those, 14 percent said they were physically abused -- slapped or punched -- during labor. Some women also had non-consensual caesarean sections (13 percent), episiotomies (75 percent) or vaginal examinations (59 percent).
Thirty-eight percent of women were shouted at, scolded or mocked, while 11 women were discriminated against regarding their race or ethnicity.
The agency reported its findings based on the observations of 2,016 births and 2,672 interviews after birth. WHO said younger, less educated women were more likely to experience mistreatment than older women.
The agency recommended the four countries design labor wards to meet the needs of women, improve informed consent for procedures, allow women to have a companion with them during labor and birth, and increase support for health workers to improve quality of care.
"WHO guidelines promote respectful maternity care for all women, which is care that maintains 'dignity, privacy and confidentiality, ensures freedom from harm and mistreatment, and enables informed choice and continuous support during labour and childbirth,'" the agency said.