Left powerless: A qualitative social media content analysis of the Dutch #breakthesilence campaign on negative and traumatic experiences of labour and birth

PLoS One. 2020 May 12;15(5):e0233114. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0233114. eCollection 2020.


Introduction: Disrespect and abuse during labour and birth are increasingly reported all over the world. In 2016, a Dutch client organization initiated an online campaign, #genoeggezwegen (#breakthesilence) which encouraged women to share negative and traumatic maternity care experiences. This study aimed (1) to determine what types of disrespect and abuse were described in #genoeggezwegen and (2) to gain a more detailed understanding of these experiences.

Methods: A qualitative social media content analysis was carried out in two phases. (1) A deductive coding procedure was carried out to identify types of disrespect and abuse, using Bohren et al.'s existing typology of mistreatment during childbirth. (2) A separate, inductive coding procedure was performed to gain further understanding of the data.

Results: 438 #genoeggezwegen stories were included. Based on the typology of mistreatment during childbirth, it was found that situations of ineffective communication, loss of autonomy and lack of informed consent and confidentiality were most often described. The inductive analysis revealed five major themes: ''lack of informed consent"; ''not being taken seriously and not being listened to"; ''lack of compassion"; ''use of force"; and ''short and long term consequences". "Left powerless" was identified as an overarching theme that occurred throughout all five main themes.

Conclusion: This study gives insight into the negative and traumatic maternity care experiences of Dutch women participating in the #genoeggezwegen campaign. This may indicate that disrespect and abuse during labour and birth do happen in the Netherlands, although the current study gives no insight into prevalence. The findings of this study may increase awareness amongst maternity care providers and the community of the existence of disrespect and abuse in Dutch maternity care, and encourage joint effort on improving care both individually and systemically/institutionally.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Delivery, Obstetric
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Labor, Obstetric
  • Maternal Health Services*
  • Netherlands
  • Parturition
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Media*

Grants and funding

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.