This week is Birth Trauma Awareness Week where we recognise the stories of people who have experienced trauma as a result of child birth. The Week is also a time to raise awareness of the risks of trauma during child birth.
More common than you think but not discussed enough
Birth trauma is a very real issue, but one not often discussed, even among women. It is often the elephant in the (delivery) room. The impact of birth trauma is both physical and psychological. It is also wide reaching and often lifelong.
According to the Australasian Birth Trauma Association 1 in 3 Australian women identify their births as traumatic and 1 in 4 first time mothers sustain significant injuries. Only about 25 per cent of women have a non-traumatic normal vaginal delivery that has not done serious damage to their pelvic floor or their anal sphincter.
We have handled numbers of claims for women who have experienced significant and avoidable injury during the birth process. In most of these cases, it has become clear that little or no information is generally made available to women about maternal birth trauma.
It is also important to recognise that the impacts of birth trauma extend beyond the mother. We have handled a number of cases where children have been left with a disability as a result of birth trauma. There are impacts on the father of the child too and other people in a relationship with the mother or her child.
What needs to be done?
Some argue that medical paternalism is preventing women and their partners from fully understanding all of the risks associated with all forms of child birth. Healthcare professionals have a duty to fully inform about risks and benefits before childbirth and prospective parents need to feel empowered to ask for that information and to challenge the decisions of their healthcare providers.
A healthy debate about child birth and its risks needs to occur. There seems to be a push towards ‘natural birth’ by health departments and many healthcare providers, often perpetuated by the media. Scaremongering about c-sections is counterproductive and leads many women down the path of vaginal delivery when it may not be the right option for them. The UK is way ahead of Australia with the NICE clinical guidelines which allow women to make the choice for a c-section.
More information and help
For a definition of birth trauma and information about the legal options available click here.