“I rushed to hospital where they immediately put me in the birthing room, I was told not to moan or “yell”. I wasn’t even swearing, just a nice cow-like moan. The nurse told me I was scaring and stressing everyone out as if they were the ones in labour.“
"The nurse gave me an internal exam which confirmed the location of the baby. A doctor then gave me the same exam to reconfirm the location of the baby. Then, a third doctor gave me the same exam yet again, this time without requesting my consent. She was examining me for what seemed like a long time, even joking around with her colleagues while inside of me. I was getting more and more anxious, knowing that this was increasing the risk of infection."
"The nurse instructed a student to check me and I shook my head no a bunch of times but they checked me anyway. [...] This nurse was doing almost everything I asked not to be done. It felt like she was offended by my choice to have a birth plan. [...] As that student checked me I felt myself give in and surrender control. I felt so defeated."
"It's been nearly nine years since the birth of my daughter, and although I've moved on from the birth experience I had, listening to the traumatic birth stories of others has made me want to share my own. I really hope that doctors and hospitals end up reading these stories to improve the care that they give to women giving birth in the future."
"I woke up from my c-section to be told that I had a boy. They would not answer me as to where he was or if he was okay. I asked at least 3 times. It wasn't until I asked if he was alive that they answered that he was okay"
"My records showed that the doctor had performed a cervix check prior to waking me up to announce me needing a c-section. I have no memory of this cervix check. I was asleep, He apparently requested consent from me while I was asleep."
"Never has anyone treated me like [that doctor] did! I have been the victim of sexual assault in the past, and even that did not compare to how [she] treated me or how it made me feel. I repeatedly asked her to stop the exam, give me a moment, etc., all of which she ignored. She continued forcefully with the exam, while I cried and writhed in agony. "
"I had many hands in me and was forced to defecate in bed because my nurse didn't want to take liability for my baby dying "in case I moved". My experience in labour was fear and anxiety and shame as my nurse wouldn't even bring me a bed pan."
"At the hospital, I felt like I was made to feel little, like I couldn't possibly know what's right for me. As though I don't know my own body. I felt like these people have ego issues and they can't trust their patients and nature. I feel like I was raped and violated. I felt disgusted that women go through this regularly and perhaps don't speak up. Disgusted that this may be the norm."
"The OB said they might as well deliver her by forceps now, and said out loud "let's give this baby a little more room, shall we", and I heard and felt the scissors cut into me as he gave me an episiotomy."
"Did you know you could get PTSD from childbirth? I didn't."
"The way I was treated at the hospital broke me, it wasn't that my daughter's cord was wrapped around her neck and it was a close call, and it wasn't that two seconds after they had her breathing, I hemorrhaged. It was how awful a nurse treated me."
"Once she left, a nurse told me that it was in the baby's best interest for me to have a C-section and that if I didn't, they could call children's aid and take the baby away from me for child endangerment."
My name is Kate Macdonald and I started The Obstetric Justice Project as a place to talk about mistreatment and abuse in reproductive healthcare.
I have struggled with the effects of my birth trauma since my baby was born in February 2017.
In the days and weeks after returning from the hospital, I began to experience vivid flashbacks of my birth experience. I couldn't even sleep on my back, lounge with my knees apart, or be touched anywhere on my body without having sudden intrusive memories that sent my heart racing with panic. I'd wake up sobbing in the night feeling completely shattered and violated again. The physical sensations were so real that it was like I was right back at the hospital.
Although I have experienced disadvantage in my life, I am also incredibly privileged. I came into the hospital that day along with that privilege; I am a white settler, I am able-bodied and English-speaking. I have a stable, loving home and a caring partner who supports our family. Before this experience, I believed myself to be fairly assertive and strong, but even I felt completely powerless and vulnerable when I was giving birth. The trauma I experienced has left me forever changed.
The response I received from the hospital when I tried to speak up about my experience was disappointing, re-traumatizing, and blatant victim-blaming.
I began posting in online forums and talking to new parents at drop-ins and groups, wondering if others had had similar experiences to mine. The reports given by the people I spoke to ranged from small cruelties, to acts that in any other setting would absolutely be considered sexual violence. Why do so few survivors of sexual violence come forward? The parallels here are too strong to ignore.
I’ve learned that while many report having really positive birth and reproductive healthcare experiences, many others leave these interactions feeling disappointed or hurt by the way they were treated. I am not alone. This is not just a problem at one hospital, it's happening all over and it’s time for a change.
It's time to speak up about abuse and mistreatment at the hands of healthcare professionals. We need to start talking about what respectful, dignified, compassionate care looks like and how to make it a reality for every patient, not just the lucky ones.
I know from experience that it's hard to speak up. It's so, so hard. I'm hoping that The Obstetric Justice Project can help make it a little easier.