Controversial TikTok video by nurses renews concerns about maternal care

After labor and delivery nurses at Emory University Hospital Midtown made a viral video detailing their "icks," many are pointing out the danger in disdain.

A TikTok trend has inadvertently highlighted the often traumatic experience of giving birth.

Last week, four labor and delivery nurses at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital Midtown used the social media app to publish a 52-second video — a riff on a popular trend typically referring to dating gaffes — detailing behavior they perceive to be “icks” while dealing with expectant parents.

Among complaints included in the since-deleted post were mothers who attempt to push forward with natural childbirth despite being in evident and immense pain or being asked how much an infant weighs while they are holding their child. Other scenarios referred to fathers “going room to room between one baby mama and your other baby mama,” or those asking for paternity tests just out of earshot of the mother.

Emory nurses TikTok Maternal care
Four labor and delivery nurses at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital Midtown published a 52-second TikTok video detailing expectant parent behaviors that they perceive to be “icks.” (Photo by John E. Davidson/Getty Images)

While the nurses’ intent may have been as much comical as informative, Emory Healthcare was not amused. On Friday, the organization released a statement about the “disrespectful and unprofessional comments about maternity patients” made in the video, inferring that the nurses in question were fired following an investigation, as it referred to the quartet as the “former employees responsible for the video.”

“This video does not represent our commitment to patient- and family-centered care,” the statement continued. “At no time should our patients ever feel they are not being treated with care and respect.”

Any intended humor was also lost on many who viewed the video, especially those who have personally experienced the maternal care at the facility. “As someone who had the most neglectful and egregious birthing experience here — one that could have cost me my life and my child’s — I’m unsurprised by the attitudes of these nurses,” wrote a commenter on Emory Healthcare’s post.

“What it does reveal though is that this is a culture … This is a culture that has been allowed to continue, unchecked. No one films themselves saying such disheartening and insensitive things and being annoyed by the needs of patients without that being common practice.”

“To be belittled and mocked during that experience is outright unacceptable,” wrote another commenter, according to NBC News. “If they’re saying those things on camera who knows what they said amongst themselves or how they treated their patients. It’s really just sad.”

As theGrio previously reported, outcomes for expectant mothers in America remain grim. For Black women, the odds are even more harrowing. Pregnancy and delivery-related deaths rose to as high three times the rate of white mothers during the pandemic, reports The Washington Post.

Strikingly, Georgia “tops the list of all 50 states with the highest maternal mortality rate of 46.2 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births for all women and a maternal mortality rate of 66.6 deaths per 100,000 live births for African American women,” according to a 2021 study by the International Journal of Maternal and Child Health and AIDS.

Experts have increasingly linked these outcomes to the quality of care, especially for Black women, who are often perceived to have a higher threshold for pain or whose concerns are dismissed altogether.

As Columbia University obstetrics and gynecology professor Uma M. Reddy told The Post, the TikTok video only compounds what have become common concerns for expectant parents.

“Patients who are well-supported … do much better and have better outcomes,” she said. “These kind[s] of comments make you worried if patients are being listened to. Undergoing childbirth is a situation where you’re dependent upon nurses and healthcare providers to support you and to listen. It’s a big unknown and you look to the nurse for support.”

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