A Qualitative Study of Physical and Verbal Abuse Experienced by Women during Labor and Childbirth in Dili Municipality, Timor-Leste

Angelina da Costa Fernandes1), Stefanus Suprianto2), Kayli Wild3)


1)Faculty of Public Health, Universitas Airlangga, Surabaya, Indonesia

2)Universitas Airlangga, Surabaya, Indonesia

3)Judith Lumley Centre & Institute for Human Security and Social Change,

La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia



Background: Timor-Leste has made good progress in reducing maternal and infant mortality in the last decade, but major challenges remain, with 51% of women giving birth at home and 43% without a skilled provider. There are many barriers that affect access to and use of health facilities for birth. An underexplored aspect in Timor-Leste is the role of disrespect and abuse during childbirth. This study aimed to explore the types of physical and verbal abuse experienced by women in urban health facilities, and at what stage of the birthing process these types of abuse are most likely to occur.

Subjects and Method: This was a qualitative study used in-depth interviews. A sample of 10 women who had recently given birth at two urban birth facilities in Dili, Timor-Leste. Women were asked about their treatment and adverse experiences during labor and birth. Notes were taken during the interviews, transcribed and coded, and themes were analyzed around types of abuse and when they occurred. The data were analyzed by narratively.

Results: Women experienced many different forms verbal and physical abuse from their birth attendant. Verbal abuse tended to occur earlier in labor, largely in response to women crying out in pain during contractions. Physical abuse was more likely to occur during the birth as well as during delivery of the placenta and perineal suturing.

Conclusion: Women described verbal abuse most often during labor and birth, and physical abuse during birth, placenta expulsion and perineal suturing.

Keywords: physical abuse, verbal abuse, mistreatment, childbirth, quality of care

Correspondence: Angelina da Costa Fernandes. Faculty of Public Health, Universitas Airlangga. Jl. Airlangga 4-6 Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. Email: angelinafernandes02@yahoo.co.id. Mobile: +67077239282.


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