Guest speakers addressed an interesting range of topics related to both physical and psychological trauma that can be experienced during birth. These included the impact of such trauma on self and relationships, supporting rural and regional areas, debriefing after a birth trauma, the impact of communication, and postnatal pelvic rehabilitation.
The deep and often long-lasting psychological impact of a traumatic birth was discussed from a number of different perspectives – the mother, the father, and even the medical practitioners or other staff involved. The way in which we communicate – verbally and through other non-verbal means – during this time can also have a profound impact for good or bad.
Computational modelling shown by Dr Jenny Kruger from the University of Auckland was a really fascinating way to show the muscles in the pelvic region and get an understanding of the damage that can be done to the pelvic floor during childbirth. This was followed up by Angela James, who talked enthusiastically about the importance of postnatal rehab with pelvic physiotherapy. It would be great to see the Australian health system adopt the French model of six weeks of postpartum pelvic rehabilitation as standard for all mothers.
We were also privileged to hear three very personal birth trauma stories including one from Amy Dawes, one of the co-founders of the Australasian Birth Trauma Association. Amy’s birth trauma arose 16 months postpartum when she was diagnosed with a bilateral levator ani avulsion (pelvic floor muscle torn off the bone) that eventually resulted in a prolapse and has compromised her quality of life significantly.
Clayton Schmidt talked about his own harrowing experiences during his wife’s pregnancies and birth which ultimately led to him developing post-traumatic stress disorder. It highlighted the need for care and debriefing of not just mums but dads too. Fathers can be affected by the circumstances surrounding birth and may not realise that this can lead to them suffering a psychiatric injury themselves.
The inaugural Australasian Birth Trauma Conference was a well thought out and cohesive event and I look forward to attending the next one. A second conference is planned for Melbourne later this year and another in Sydney in 2021. It would be great to see one in Newcastle too at some time in the future.