A new inquiry is looking into the prevalence of child birth trauma in New South Wales—and the results are staggering. The inquiry, which began in Sydney on Monday, received over 4000 submissions for the public. Many of the testimonies describe of a lack of consent, insufficient pain relief and issues with clinical staff during childbirth.
According to the ABC, the overwhelming number of traumatic experiences recounted to the inquiry has led University of Sydney professor Hannah Dahlen, to describe the response as the “me too” of child birth.
“No means no except apparently in childbirth, and it’s time to change that,” Professor Dahlen said on Monday. “This is the ‘me too’ of childbirth.”
Perhaps even more significantly, NSW Health made an apology to those who have experienced trauma during childbirth, when deputy secretary of Health System Strategy of NSW Health, Deb Wilcox said, “We are sorry this has been their experience and NSW health commits to listening and learning.”
According to Dahlen’s study, the ongoing impact of birth trauma can lead to mental health issues including postnatal depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as problems with bonding with the baby.
The current inquiry is looking into the reasons birth trauma is happening in the first place, and aims to find solutions for birthing women. On the first day of the inquiry, the committee found that women are not provided with adequate information surrounding the potential dangers and complications that can occur during child birth.
Board director of The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG), Dr Jared Watts told inquiry women are “meeting the obstetricians for the first time when their legs are in the air,”
“They’ve never met these people before, they’re doing things to them they don’t understand and we really need to change this to patient-centre care.”
The ABC also reported that Dr Watts told the inquiry RANZCOG supports improved antenatal education but finds it “hard” to share the information with pregnant women.
“You don’t want to scare women, because you wouldn’t want to have a child if you knew of every complication that could happen,” Dr Watts said.
However, these comments were disputed by Australasian Birth Trauma Association president Amy Dawes, who claimed “we need to stop infantilising women.”
The birth trauma witnesses also advocated for a continuity of care during the pregnancy and birthing process. This would see the mother have access to the same medical practitioner throughout pregnancy and birth.
According the NSW health representatives, staffing is the biggest barrier to providing this service. However, the Nurses and Midwives union offered a solution, calling for private midwives to be given hospital visiting rights and for childcare hours to extend for those needing to work odd hours.