Giving Birth Better explored the impact of maternal birth trauma and what can be done to ensure better outcomes for women.
Birth trauma – affecting the woman – is much more common than people think or are prepared to talk about. The SBS program highlighted how necessary it is for pregnant women to obtain information during the antenatal period about birthing options – information that is provided in an informing not intimidating way.
If you have experienced birth trauma, it is also important to know that you are not alone. One in 2 Australian women will report their birth experience as traumatic. And as a clinical psychologist said on the program, a birth experience can have lasting effects on parenthood – on the mother, the child and also on other family members.
Interestingly, one woman, Gabriella, told the program that although her birth experience was “fairly straight forward”, her experience meant that the first year of motherhood was much harder than it should have been.
What is maternal birth trauma?
Maternal birth trauma covers a wide variety of medical conditions – physical and emotional – experienced by a mother during labour – almost always vaginal birth.
Injuries during a traumatic vaginal birth can include perineal tear (1st to 4th degree), levator avulsion (where part or all of the pelvic floor muscles are pulled off the pubic bone on one or both sides) and urinary and/or faecal incontinence. Psychological injuries commonly include PTSD (affecting 1 in 10 women), obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression. Tragically, suicide is one the leading causes of death for women in the first 12 months after birth.
What can be done to improve women’s experience of childbirth?
There are strategies that could be used to improve women’s experience of vaginal birth including ensuring that fulsome information is given during the antenatal period and encouraging women to ask questions of their health professionals. Pushing for women centred and collaborative care provided by a range of health professionals is another – having pelvic floor physiotherapists to assist with improved post partum care and funded by Medicare would be highly beneficial.
In 2017, my firm ran a community seminar on maternal birth trauma. Amy Dawes who featured on the SBS programme and who established the Australasian Birth Trauma Association was one of the speakers. One of the key messages to come from that event was the need to talk more about the experience of birth and the strategies already identified were also supported.
Legal help if you have experienced birth trauma due to substandard medical treatment
Our health law team has assisted many women who have experienced maternal birth trauma in circumstances where that trauma was avoidable. Much of the work has involved acting for women in regional NSW. We have also handled many cases for women and their families wishing to make a complaint. There are numbers of clients stories on our website and you can read one of our client stories here. Catherine Henry has three decades of experience in this area of medical negligence law. One of our specialist health lawyers was also a nurse/midwife for two decades before training as a lawyer. We also have an in-house Clinical Nurse Consultant. So, we well understand the issues and know the right questions to ask and facts to uncover when mounting a case for you.
These cases are complex and sometimes challenging to prove, so it is important to have expert health lawyers on your side. We need to establish that a hospital or health professional failed to act in accordance with appropriate clinical standards. The negligence applies to the manner of delivery but also the way in which injuries, such as tears, are managed after birth. We have and continue to advocate for women demanding that health professionals must give women adequate warnings of the risk of gynaecological injury during vaginal birth and providing information about alternative approaches.
To confidentially talk through the options available to you, please call us on 1800 874 949. We can also put you in touch with support organisations.
More information on maternal birth trauma
Read some of our articles on maternal birth trauma here.
If this article causes issues for you, you can always call Lifeline (24 hours) on 13 11 14.
If you or a loved one has experienced injuries as a result of a neonatal death or birth trauma, our caring, expert female lawyers can help advocate for you. To confidentially discuss your needs call us on 1800 874 949 or fill in the form below, and we will be in touch.