Perceived treatment of respectful maternity care among pregnant women at healthcare facilities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: A cross-sectional study

Reem Saeed Alghamdi*, Oliver Perra, Breidge Boyle, Janine Stockdale

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Mistreatment of women during childbirth is a global issue and a violation of fundamental human rights. Respectful maternity care has been affirmed as a universal right of childbearing women. However, little is known about the level of respect experienced by women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA); which is undergoing key reforms in the scope of its healthcare provision. We explored the occurrence of respect perceived by women giving birth in the KSA and compared results between national healthcare sectors, as well as with previous international studies. 

Method: We conducted a cross-sectional study using an online survey. The online questionnaire included demographic questions, a translation of the internationally validated Mother on Respect index (MORi) scale, which we adapted to investigate KSA women's experiences, and questions to further investigate women's experiences (e.g. respect of privacy). Women who gave birth within five years at a Saudi healthcare facility were recruited through social media using a snowballing approach. 

Results: Overall, 586 participants were recruited, 54% of whom had been cared for in government hospitals, 65% were aged between 25 and 34, and almost 79% had a BSc or higher qualification. Overall, women's perception about respectful maternity care was positive, however, opinions varied between governmental and private sectors. Women cared for in the government sector reported significantly lower levels of respect compared to those cared for in the private sector (β = -.132, p = .001). The results also highlighted an issue of concern: one in five women (21.8%) reported having been physically abused. Our participants perceived their childbirth experiences to be less respectful compared to those in other high-income countries. 

Conclusion: Women birthing in the private sector reported a more respectful experience, which may be explained by the private sector being more consumer-focused. Women who gave birth in the KSA perceived their care to be less respectful than women giving birth in Canada and the USA. Beginning to understand what has provoked the occurrences of mistreatment in childbirth worldwide will inevitably contribute to the development of a solution. Respectful maternity care should be focused on providing women-centred care and quality of care which meets the WHO vision for women's and their families’ needs being fulfilled and respected.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103714
Early online date23 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study is funded by the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education through King Saud University Scholarship (governmental funding) granted by Reem Saeed Alghamdi, number KSU1728 . The funder has no role in study design, data collection, analysis, the decision to publish, peer-reviewing, or preparation of the manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd


  • Government, private
  • Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Respectful maternity care
  • Survey

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery


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