‘It felt like a violation of my rights’: the issue of consent during childbirth
He says a significant reason for this not happening is that the rate of pregnant women receiving a full medical assessment – and a chance to consent or refuse future treatments – has fallen drastically.
At Gold Coast Hospital, for example, the number of women receiving this assessment has fallen from 85 per cent in 2011 to 55 per cent in 2015.
Anecdotally, he says the same fall is occurring in New South Wales.
“Obstetric patients, like any other, are entitled to be told about all material risks. This includes the degree of personal risk in an attempt at natural birth and the overall and relative risks of interventions that might be indicated,” he says.
Ms McAlpine claims junior doctors are far more likely to perform caesareans rather than let a birth continue naturally.
“The more senior and the more experienced a doctor is, the less likely they are to perform these things unnecessarily, like a vacuum, and the less damage they do.”
Since 2014, women across the world have been sharing their stories online, using the hashtag #BreakTheSilence. Many discuss feeling violated, helpless and later ignored by medical staff. In the overwhelming majority of cases, these women are left without any professional support such as counselling or physical therapy.
Ms Dawes says there is power and healing in sharing experiences and stories, especially for women who felt dismissed or their complaints ignored. She co-founded the Australian Birth Trauma Association to provide support to other women and help educate future expecting mothers about their rights and choices.
She says it took four months to realise the extent of her “life altering” injuries, and was devastated by being forced to undergo a forceps delivery.
“Personally, I cried a lot in that early postpartum period and I just thought that things would get better on their own,” she says. “But when I found out how serious my injuries were, I went to an extremely dark place.”
Ms Dawes was eventually diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and prescribed anti-depressants.
“I didn’t understand the full implications; I just assumed that I would get better, not realising how much worse my injuries would get. Luckily, I had a wonderful support network, but it’s an ongoing battle.”
Professor Dietz says doctors and practitioners need to examine their “motivations” and stop “infantilising” women.
“Instead… give all women a full medical assessment of their risks and their options [and] respect the decisions that they have a right to make for themselves.”
This content was originally published here.