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‘Please treat me like a person’—respectful care during adolescent childbirth

02 June 2020
17 min read
Volume 28 · Issue 6



This study explored the lived childbirth experiences of ‘middle adolescent’ mothers between 14–16 years of age.

Study design

A qualitative design was followed with a Husserlian phenomenological approach and Colaizzi's seven steps to unravelling information. Using semi-structured conversations, information was gathered from six middle-adolescent mothers who had normal vaginal births of healthy term infants in two public hospitals in South Africa.


An overarching theme of preservation of personhood was identified. Three themes emerged i) unpreparedness for childbirth, ii) an unsettled state of mind during childbirth and iii) feeling overwhelmed by the experience.


More positive birth experiences were associated with respectful, non-judgmental midwife care and having their mothers as birth companions while humiliation, victimisation and rudeness were associated with negative birth experiences.


More focus is needed on adolescent-friendly healthcare services and age-appropriate education; continuous labour support; pain management and respectful care during childbirth.

The risk factors, health implications and socio-economic repercussions of adolescent pregnancy and early childbearing is widely covered in literature. The World Health Organization ([WHO], 2018a) and the United Nations Population Fund (2017) coordinate through various ongoing campaigns to address this phenomenon that is regarded as a global issue, accounting for 11% of births worldwide (Koffman, 2012; Ganchimeg et al, 2014; Torres et al, 2015; Cook and Cameron, 2017). In South Africa, in 2018, 107 548 adolescent girls between 15–19 years of age, and 3 235 adolescent girls between 10–14 years of age registered births—together representing 11% of all 1 009 065 registered births in the country during that year (Statistics South Africa, 2019).

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