WOMEN have expressed concerns that they have long-term negative implications affecting their health and wellbeing due to hospital birth experiences according to Safe Motherhood for All.

A study by Safe Motherhood has found more than 30 per cent of 1,700 women surveyed in Australia in 2017 felt their childbirth had a negative impact on their mental health with respect to postnatal depression.

Homebirth Australia Coordinator Grace Sweeney said women feel they are being steamrolled into procedures, examinations or tests even when the woman doesn’t want them.

“The impression that’s given from the hospital, which has a lot of power in these situations, particularly when you’re in labour, and you’re vulnerable is that these things are mandatory,” she said.

The percentage for those feeling negative long-term implications rose to 43 per cent when it came to medical interference or instrumental childbirths.

Safe Motherhood reported that it is important that women are given information about their options in childbirth including vaginal, instrumental or caesarean births in order to make informed decisions and give informed consent to medical examinations or procedures.

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Figure one: I was asked if I agreed to each examination or procedure before it took place (by place of birth).

One of the survey respondents said the trauma and loss of dignity and control in the months following her birth still upset her.

“I had PTSD after my son was born and post-natal depression … I feel like I was robbed of his babyhood because I couldn’t enjoy this time at all,” she said.

Dr Tal Jacobson, an obstetrics and gynaecology specialist at Mater Mothers Hospital in Brisbane, agrees that a poor birth experience can result in postnatal depression, however, feels the link to this is far more than the result of childbirth methods.

“The main reason for postnatal depression in respect to pregnancy is due to previous depression and domestic abuse,” he said.

Studies by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare indicate that around 5 per cent of women, aged 18 and over experience violence during pregnancy from their previous or current partner.

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Photo: Mater Mothers Hospitals in South Brisbane, Queensland.

Women in violent relationships have been found more likely than other women to terminate a pregnancy and were three times as likely to conceal a termination from their abusive partners a study from Women’s Health Academic Centre in London reports.

Women and Birth surveyed 150 respondents from the Australian College of Midwives in 2016 which concluded that nearly 90 per cent of the midwives surveyed reported a high level of knowledge or training about intimate partner violence.

The role of a homebirth midwife as Doctor Robyn Thompson, midwife of 40 years said, is to look after a woman from very early pregnancy to 72 hours following the birth of her baby and continual check-ups for six weeks after.

“It’s being in tune with the woman, it’s not just taking it for granted, you’re there for her, with her, beside her,” she said.

The Australian College of Midwives reported that homebirth services that offer women care by the same midwife are shown to form trusting relationships throughout the term of their pregnancy, labour and after the child is born.

According to Women and Birth, this relationship, knowledge and the training about intimate partner violence allows midwives to routinely inquire about domestic violence and offer support.

Safe Motherhood reported 97 per cent of respondents who gave birth at home had a positive effect on their experience with 96 per cent of the women surveyed feeling in control of their birth experience.

“My favourite part of the homebirths is seeing the power of women, how powerful, and how in tune they are”, Dr Thompson said.

Alison Harvey, a mother of three, said she loved how natural having a homebirth felt.

“Having a baby is a pretty spectacular thing … I loved having my kids present,” she said.

“I kind of just love that life goes on in the middle of mum having a baby and it’s really lovely and everyone is just kind of calm and has faith in the process”.

Choice in maternity care is important and each woman contemplating planned homebirth should seek accurate information from their General Practitioner or midwife.

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