Your Human Rights in Childbirth

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our inaugural Growing Families event in Manchester on Thursday 6th October.  Whilst we reflect on the feedback and think about what happens next, we are delighted to continue with our blog series.  Our thanks to Rebecca Schiller of Birthrights for this piece on your human rights in childbirth.


You may not feel like it at times but you are the same rational, adult human you were before you took the job of incubator for new life. The idea behind the human rights in childbirth movement is nothing more than that. Human rights principles and the legal framework that makes them powerful insist that you are treated with dignity and respect during pregnancy and birth and are never simply as the means to an end.

All public bodies and servants (like hospitals and the doctors and midwives who work in them) must ensure your human rights (as set out in the Human Rights Act 1998 and a series of national, regional and international agreements) are adhered to throughout your pregnancy and birth.

This is good news for you and your baby as there’s a strong relationship between safe, quality care and rights-respecting care. Care that puts you – the pregnant woman – at its heart is better for everyone.


  • You have a right to receive safe maternity care that’s appropriate to your needs.
  • You have the right to privacy and confidentiality.
  • You have the right to equality and freedom from discrimination.
  • You have a right to bodily autonomy during pregnancy and birth. Whatever the situation, whatever the intervention you must be asked for your consent to any procedure and always have the right to say ‘no’.
  • Those caring for you must ensure they explain risks and benefits in a unbiased way that you can understand. They mustn’t only give you generic leaflets or one-sided information but must adapt their discussion to your circumstances and situation.
  • You should be given pain relief when you request it.
  • All reasonable efforts to ensure you can decide where and how you give birth should be made. There shouldn’t be blanket bans on certain women having certain kinds of births. Hospitals can have policies and criteria for birth centres and homebirths but women outside of these criteria should be enabled to access these birth setting if their requests can reasonably be accommodated.

You can find out more about your rights in pregnancy and birth at

Birthrights provides advice on lawful maternity care to families and healthcare professionals. We offer training on respectful care to midwives and doctors, conduct research into related issues and campaign to protect pregnant women using the human rights framework. You can support our work by hosting a #newchapter book club or becoming a monthly supporter.

Follow us on twitter @birthrightsorg and sign-up to our newsletter.


Rebecca Schiller
October 2016

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