Feeling at home with Birth

Recently I was fortunate enough to be shortlised by the SAFC and Audible to go in to development on a podcast series. My series is called Homebirth: A modern day witch hunt. On reviewing my files for this I came across an article I wrote for the now defunct News Ltd site The Punch. It was published in November 2011. I have decided to repost it as it is even more relevant today, than it was 9 years ago.

Birth is unpredictable unless of course you have booked in for a caesarean and know exactly the when, where, why and how. Nowadays this is an acceptable form of giving birth however at the other end of the spectrum there are women birthing at home with no medical intervention.

And then there is the majority that falls in between. Every day, all over the country women are birthing in hospitals with healthy babies. Some without any intervention while others have a full gamin of procedures. Some are elated by their experience and some are shattered.

When pregnant, hospitals encourage us to write a birth plan. It is a document that details what procedures you will and won’t accept and whom you want there. A lot of time and energy is spent creating them, it is our formal statement about how we want our bodies and babies to be treated by the hospital.

While it is made with the best of intentions there is no guarantee all will go as planned. Despite all the meticulous detail there are people who will intervene in the birth that will not have so much as glanced at it.

At times this cannot be helped as women find themselves in a situation where decisions have to be made quickly and there is little room for debate. Yet no matter what happens nothing can occur without the patient’s informed consent. But how informed are we?

A recent coronial inquest in to how a twin boy died on the way to hospital contained evidence from a mother whose birth trauma was so severe she was left suicidal.

Over a year ago this same mother shared this very personal story with me. It was then, and still is now, an example of how medical intervention can go drastically wrong

During the birth of her second son a registrar administered procedures with no explanation, consent or anesthetic. This left her with posttraumatic stress disorder that further manifested in to obsessive-compulsive disorder. It also resulted in a deep-seated fear of hospitals and doctors.

I have interviewed many women who chose a homebirth because of an adverse experience in a hospital. The anguish they experienced drove them out of the system seeking alternative forms of care.

Where a woman chooses to birth is her choice, whether you agree with it or not. It is a fundamental right of our free world. Yet when a woman births outside of a hospital because she has been driven away by a traumatic experience there are bigger questions that need to be asked.

The coronial inquest was held during Post Natal Depression Week. Through all the material publicising this week, I found nothing to acknowledge the mental health impacts of birth trauma.

This birth story was shocking to hear, but it is not uncommon. Until we act on this, women all over Australia will continue to turn their backs on the medical system and birth alone.

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