Birth trauma is a serious issue affecting many families in Australia. It can have long-lasting physical, emotional, and psychological effects on mothers, partners, and babies. Unfortunately, birth trauma is not a rare occurrence, and it is estimated that up to one in three women experience some form of trauma during childbirth in Australia.
What is birth trauma?
Birth trauma is a term used to describe a range of negative experiences that can occur during childbirth. This can include physical injury to the mother or baby, complications during delivery, interventions that were not wanted or necessary, feeling powerless or unheard, and psychological distress such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
For many women, birth trauma can be a result of feeling unsupported, ignored, or dismissed during labour and delivery. This can lead to feelings of helplessness and can have significant long-term effects on the mother’s mental health and well-being.
Birth trauma in Australia
According to a 2018 survey conducted by the Australian College of Midwives, 28% of women experienced some form of trauma during childbirth, with 11% experiencing severe trauma. These numbers are alarming, and the impact of birth trauma is not limited to the mother alone. Partners and babies can also be affected by the experience, with partners often feeling helpless and unable to support their loved ones, and babies potentially experiencing physical harm or distress.
Factors that contribute to birth trauma in Australia include a lack of continuity of care, insufficient support during labour and delivery, high rates of intervention, and a lack of choice or control during the birthing process. Women who experience birth trauma are also more likely to have difficulty breastfeeding and are at a higher risk of postpartum depression and anxiety.
What can be done?
To reduce the incidence of birth trauma in Australia, there needs to be a shift towards a more woman-centred approach to childbirth. This includes providing women with more choice and control over their birthing experience, ensuring that they feel supported and listened to throughout the process, and offering a continuity of care model where they can build a relationship with their healthcare provider. Midwives and obstetricians also need to work together to ensure that women receive the right level of care, and interventions are only used when necessary.
Women who have experienced birth trauma need access to support and resources that can help them to process their experience and overcome any negative psychological effects. This includes access to mental health services and support groups, as well as education and awareness programs aimed at reducing the stigma surrounding birth trauma.
Birth trauma is a serious issue in Australia, affecting many families and having significant long-term effects on mental health and well-being. To reduce the incidence of birth trauma, there needs to be a shift towards a more woman-centred approach to childbirth, with a focus on providing women with choice, support, and continuity of care. Women who have experienced birth trauma need access to support and resources that can help them to overcome the negative psychological effects of their experience. It is important that the issue of birth trauma is recognised and addressed, to ensure that all women have a positive birthing experience and are able to enter motherhood with confidence and resilience.