English summary of my investigation into alleged mistreatment of women as they give birth

The Nara podcast (translated title: My childbirth feels like it’s not mine) contains testimonies of nine women, as well as interviews with leading experts and activists. In total, I talked to 12 parents, who shared experiences from being shamed for their weight to being pressured into inducing labour without the medical reasons for this being clearly explained.

I was inspired to embark on this project when following coverage of obstetric violence by my colleagues at NewsMavens. In 2019, I received a grant from Re:Baltica’s Fund for Others to fund the investigation. To understand the ethically challenging terrain, I consulted with experts abroad and read extensively about the medical aspects of childbirth. I interviewed activists pushing for people to be allowed more informed decisions as they give birth and got access to their survey of mothers. As the story came out, they felt that the investigation underestimates the extent of the problem (their response is published here, in Lithuanian). However, I was not able to triangulate their findings, comparing the share of certain procedures (e.g. induced birth) in their sample to official data from the Hygiene Institute. If new data sources become available, I hope I can follow up.

The audio story (in Lithuanian) is available here:

You can see Severina Venckutė’s and other colleagues’ stunning photos and some of the sources I used in the investigation here. To machine-translate the story, you can use this spin-off text I published with the Lithuanian public broadcaster, LRT.

Importantly, although we know where our interviewees gave birth, our team’s decision was not to name the exact hospitals or birthing homes. This is an approach Nara had already applied in their collection of #MeToo testimonies, since Nara’s focus is not to expose and blame, but to initiate debates on the impact of certain treatment on people who suffer from it. By focusing on how parents feel months and sometimes years after their traumatic birth experience, we wanted the medical establishment to feel invited into this conversation without getting defensive. The feedback we received was that we achieved this goal.

I was the author, interviewer and editor of this investigation
Karolis Vyšniauskas was co-editor
Mindaugas Drigotas, Martyna Šulskutė and Severina Venckutė took photos
Kata Bitowt was the sound engineer
The music is by Martynas Gailius and Kata Bitowt
This investigation would have not been possible without the grant from Re:Baltica and Nara’s supporters on Patreon