OPINION – MELISSA GRANT
Mums, we need to talk.
An estimated one in three Aussie women have a traumatic birth experience, yet many are suffering in silence.
The confronting statistic is from the Australasian Birth Trauma Association (ABTA), which also estimates that between 10 and 20 per cent of first-time mums sustain a long-term physical injury from childbirth.
It’s not uncommon for women to experience incontinence, constant lower back pain, sexual dysfunction, pelvic floor injuries and pelvic organ prolapse.
Some suffer from psychological birth trauma, including anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder.
So why aren’t we talking about this?
Many mums believe they have nothing to complain about as they should just be grateful for having a healthy baby. It’s this notion that often stops mums from sharing their traumatic birth experiences or getting help.
Others believe their trauma will heal over time. Many are so busy looking after young children that they don’t prioritise their health.
Worryingly, many mums have no idea that they could end up with a serious injury from giving birth. In a recent episode of Insight on SBS, a mother of three explained how she had never heard of prolapse until she had one.
If you have suffered birth trauma, it’s time to think about sharing your story.
From July 19-25, the ABTA is running its annual awareness week dedicated to shining a light on birth-related trauma.
The theme of this year’s awareness week is Better Healing.
I’ll share a bit about my story. It’s not really what I consider particularly traumatic, but highlights the lack of education about what can happen during childbirth.
While pregnant with my first child, the antenatal classes seemed to focus on birthing positions and breastfeeding. Nobody mentioned the tearing could be so bad it would take weeks for me to sit without being painful.
For child number two, I didn’t expect to be signing forms that detailed the huge risks of having a c-section, if it came to that. While I knew the doctors were talking about worst case scenarios, it was something I didn’t anticipate especially after my first child was delivered vaginally. I also didn’t expect my child to be delivered with forceps because a vacuum wasn’t an option.
The founder of ABTA, Amy Dawes, suffered an horrific birth injury from the forceps delivery of her first daughter.
Amy sustained a third-degree tear but thought things would get better on their own. She had no idea of the extent of the damage until her daughter was 16 months old. Her pelvic floor muscle had been pulled off the bone and she was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse, a condition she’d never heard of.
She’s far from alone – a quick look at the ATBA website reveals a number of really traumatic birth experiences.
Hats off to these women for publicising their stories. Sharing experiences of birth trauma helps women realise they aren’t alone and can seek support. Importantly, it helps raise awareness and reduce the stigma. As Amy says, ‘the more we raise our voice the harder it is to ignore’.
If you want to share your story, make sure you use the social media hashtags #starttheconversation #saferbirthsbetterhealing #walkntalk