When the scars begin to heal: narratives of obstetric violence in Chiapas, Mexico

Jenna Murray de Lopez (Humanitarian Conflict Response Institute, School of Arts Languages and Cultures, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

International Journal of Health Governance

ISSN: 2059-4631

Publication date: 5 March 2018



The purpose of this paper is to examine how obstetric violence is embodied and understood by the women who experience it, how it impacts on maternal subjectivity and what the long-term health implications may be.


This paper is a qualitative, non-clinical analysis of women’s experiences of obstetric violence in Mexico. Data sources are derived from ethnographic interviews, participant observation and an extensive revision of public reports and policy.


Local ideas and beliefs over what one must endure to become a “good mother” contribute to how acts of obstetric violence are treated and interpreted by professionals, the community and the individual alike. The ways in which women interpret violence in relation to the wider context of their everyday lives have significant implications for evaluating the effectiveness of approaches to reproductive and maternal health.

Social implications

Situating women’s narratives within an ecological framework of gender-based violence reveals not only the conditions under which obstetric violations occur, but also the forms of resilience and coping mechanisms that women develop. This provides a deeper understanding for the long-term health implications of iatrogenic trauma during pregnancy and birth.


This paper discusses obstetric violence from the perspective of women who experience it and contextualises it within the wider life course approach to personhood and maternal transformation.



Murray de Lopez, J. (2018), "When the scars begin to heal: narratives of obstetric violence in Chiapas, Mexico", International Journal of Health Governance, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 60-69. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJHG-05-2017-0022

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