Joint position statement: Substandard and disrespectful care in labour – because words matter

A joint position statement of the European Association of Perinatal Medicine (EAPM), the European Board and College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (EBCOG), and the European Midwives Association (EMA).

Please visit our Publications page to read the statement.


Substandard or disrespectful care during labour should be of serious concern for healthcare professionals, as it can affect one of the most important events in a woman’s life. Substandard care refers to the use of interventions that are not considered best-practice, to the inadequate execution of interventions, to situations where best-practice interventions are withheld from patients, or there is lack of adequate informed consent. Disrespectful
care refers to forms of verbal and non-verbal communication that affect patients’ dignity, individuality, privacy, intimacy, or personal beliefs. There are many possible underlying causes for substandard and disrespectful care in labour, including difficulties in modifying behaviours, judgmental or paternalistic attitudes, personal interests and individualism, and a human tendency to make less arduous, less difficult, or less stressful clinical decisions.
The term “obstetric violence” is used in some parts of the world to describe various forms of substandard and disrespectful care in labour, but suggests that it is mainly carried out by obstetricians and is a serious form of aggression, carried out with the intent to cause harm. We believe that this term should not be used, as it does not help to identify the underlying problem, its causes, or its correction. In addition, it is generally seen by obstetricians and other healthcare professionals as an unjust and offensive term, generating a defensive and less collaborative mindset. We reach out to all individuals and institutions sharing the common goal of improving women’s experience during labour, to work together to address the underlying causes of substandard and disrespectful care, and to develop common strategies to deal with this problem, based on mutual comprehension, trust and respect.

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