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Women Protest Violence Against Laboring Women in Bulgarian Hospitals


Reader Kristina in Bulgaria alerted me in November to a protest that was to be held on November 25, 2009 on the International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women. A group of women and mothers heard the story of a particularly violent and abusive birth and decided that they would not rest until something was done. They wrote on the “Who Are We?” page of their blog:

We wanted to say, that we know and have personally experienced the conduct and treatment which is now standard practice in our hospitals, and no matter how accepted it is in our society, every violence directed at woman in labour, is a crime and absolutely unacceptable. We don’t say this as members of a lifeless legal entity, but as human beings.

Domestic and institutional violence in Bulgaria is currently in the international spotlight, with charitable foundations like Macedonia campaigning for awareness of the nearly one million registered cases of domestic violence and Vice Minister of Labor and Social Policy Ivanka Hristova announcing in December 2009 that one in four Bulgarian women are abused.

The women planned the protest, which several Bulgarian newspapers reported drew 50 protesters on November 25, 2009, in response to the following experience of a woman who labored at St. Sofia Hospital.

After her legal refusal to sign the informed consent as presented the attitude of the staff towards her quickly became rude, threatening and coersive. Later on she was physically handled and restrained in the lithotomy position against her will and stitched without anaesthetic „as punishment“. Each of this actions in direct violation of her rights as a patient and her fundamental human rights.

Read her full story. Note: This story and the other stories linked are potentially triggering to those with birth trauma.

Other women came forward to share their heartwrenching stories, a few of which were translated into English.

To Give Birth to an Angel

My Traumatic Birth

It’s Not a Good Idea to Decline


The women that organized the protest claim that there is plenty of evidence provided by women on a popular Bulgarian parenting blog to show that these practices are commonplace and have posted an online petition on Say No to Violence with the following call to action:

The rights of the birthing women as a patient have long been ignored in our hospitals by the medical personnel. Disrespectful treatment towards women while they give birth has become a common practice and even accepted as the norm in our society. It is inexcusable and criminal.


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Reader Comments (9)

I worked with a young woman from Bulgaria last summer who said her country was so rife with graft, and corruption that everything is crazed there and unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life is everywhere. I felt so sad for her. I think this is a good article- thank you for shring these women's experience especially the poor woman who ultimately lost her baby- what heartbreak- separated with information withheld only to suffer life's greatest heartache. It reminds me somewhat of my birth 22 years ago- I remember trying to convince my doctor I wanted a hysterectomy because my first birth was so traumatic (at age 19). I hope they can make some progress in their movement. I am also happy to see they read your blog. Communities connecting-.

January 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgina

I can't tell you how many deep breaths I had to take reading those stories. But I couldn't NOT read them. These women deserve my attention; their stories deserve to be heard. As horrible as I was treated during my first labor (and this did bring back some memories) cannot imagine some aspects of what women endure here- as common practice. Thank you for sharing this.

January 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren

This story made me want to throw up and cry at the same time...horrifying...

January 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill

This story just reminds us from where we have all come, the treatment that all women used to endure in the hands of the medical establishment. The reality of the 'care' we received when doctors had full unquestionable control.
Thank you for reminding us and for giving publicity for those handful of women who obviously want to change these horrific practices. I wish them strength and determination to persevere and want to give them my support. Maybe find out what we can do to be of assistance as women who are a bit further in the battle.

January 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeorgia

I had a beautiful, peaceful, very gentle home water birth. I can't imagine this trauma. Reading these stories I gagged. I actually almost threw up! Do these 'doctors' and 'midwives' actually have ANY training? A fourth story, not listed above, has a woman being laughed at for trying to feed her newborn as they said new borns can't suckle! I'm outraged, infuriated and utterly dismayed. I'll be forwarding this to other women I know to sign the petition. This is an outrage.

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLuschka

this is so sad to hear that so many women are experiencing such traumatic births. it makes me so sad. i will get the word out and sign the petition! every woman ought to have the right to a gentle, beautiful birth.

January 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterkamille

I wonder, has anyone tried to contact the doctors and nurses who work in hospitals in Bulgaria, sent them videos of actual calm water births/natural births, videos of mothers nursing their brand new babies, etc? These doctors and nurses sound so stupid and uneducated. Jumping on laboring women's abdomens? What????? Not only do the birthing mothers feel the pain, but so do the babies-to-be. This is insane!!!!!!

January 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

Aside from the part about being tied down, most of that story sounds like it could come from the US. :(

February 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterThe Deranged Housewife

Those are truly horrifying stories. It's crazy to think these things are happening in 2010. Do you know if anything has changed recently?

August 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKelly
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