A new report says a large number of women are physically or verbally abused while they give birth in health centers.
Most of the abuse happens in the 15 minutes before and during childbirth.
The report noted other studies that found midwives and doctors believed they could "punish" women if they failed to do what the health workers wanted.
Researchers wrote in the report that mistreatment during childbirth can be a violation of human rights.The fear of being mistreated could also prevent women from seeking treatment at health centers.
The World Health Organization led the new study.The report was published in the medical publication The Lancet.
Researchers followed more than 2,000 women in Nigeria, Myanmar, Ghana and Guinea.More than 4 in 10 reported being hit, forcibly held down, shouted at or criticized while giving birth.Women in the four countries had high rates of surgical operations related to childbirth without their approval - and often without medicine to ease the pain, either.
Younger, less-educated women are especially at risk of abuse during childbirth, researchers found.And, in general, women are often afraid to report examples of abuse against them.
The researchers urged officials to hold caregivers who mistreat women during childbirth responsible.They also urged governments to ensure women have a safe place to give birth.For example, they said that women should be able to agree to all medical actions.Women should be able to choose someone to stay with them at the health centers.And they should have as much privacy as possible.
Health officials say the mistreatment of women during childbirth appears to be a problem around the world, including in developed countries.Earlier reports documented physical abuse of women in Eastern Europe, especially Roma women.Some of these women were also separated from their newborns for several days.
Abusive actions toward mothers have also been reported across Latin America.In 2007, Venezuela became the first country to pass a law banning childbirth-related violence.
I'm Kelly Jean Kelly.