“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.“
“Modern obstetrics is rife with condescension, medical paternalism, and misogyny. Sometimes it's subtle, and sometimes it's not. Take these examples pulled directly from the website of a well-regarded downtown teaching hospital in Toronto, Ontario:
’Remaining in control of yourself and your fear is the one major way for you to help your labour along. Let the doctors worry about any abnormalities and, if none have so far been discussed with you, rely on their care for you and your baby. You are there to breathe and cope and push the baby out when the time comes.’”
“without explanation of any risks or reasons, she announced that she was going to break my water and proceeded to aggressively enter my vagina with an amnio hook. This was not a treatment I had been previously informed about or had given consent to. With much force, she repeatedly hooked and pulled, saying that it was very hard to break my amniotic sac. At one point, she pulled the hook out, said she wasn’t sure she had broken my water and I braced as she went back in to keep trying. She was aggressive, determined and didn’t care that I was extremely uncomfortable and confused. After she was finished I had a lot of bleeding. I was then given a pad to wear for that bleeding and was left with my midwife for further care. After giving birth to my daughter, we saw that she had three deep gouges out of her scalp. One of the gouges was right on the edge of her soft spot. It became clear that the bleeding I was having prior was not my own blood but was from the head of my unborn child.”
“I was very anxious that I couldn't get much milk out. I needed to feed my baby and I really wanted to do it naturally. The lactation consultant must have said something to my midwife because that evening my midwife came in and said she wanted me monitored, and that she was going to send staff in every 3 hrs to make sure I was actually going to feed him and ***THAT SHE THOUGHT I HAD BEEN SEXUALLY ABUSED AS A CHILD*** based on when they were wheeling me into the OR she thought I was sucking my thumb (I was biting my first as the contractions were strong). She thought that was regressive behaviour that showed this. Seeing as I was being monitored as though I was an unfit mom, still raw from the surprise c-section, and awoken every 3 hrs anyway - I could not sleep. I know statistically that sexual abuse happens primarily among family members and all I could think, as thoughts raced through my mind instead of sleeping, was who had possibly sexually abused me? That was what my child's birth story became. I was raw with exhaustion, wired with this shocking piece of information, still very afraid and alone in terms of figuring out how to breastfeed my baby.”
”Words have huge impact around these completely life changing moments like childbirth. I would like the midwifery profession to know the extent of pain that this caused.”
“Now my biggest concern is how am I supposed to trust this Doctor? He has no knowledge of my background or history as he is fairly new to me (my original family doctor retired a few years ago). I have yet to voice my legitimate concerns regarding the miscarriages and don’t feel like he cares enough to make about my mental health issues to help make a proactive and reasonable plan in case PPD rears its ugly head once again. I spent the past 2 years trying to see him to discuss mental health issues prior to the pregnancy, but met with all sorts of interns and NPs, but not once have I spoken with him. I eventually gave up on the medical route and am currently receiving private mental health treatment that I pay for out of pocket.”
“They completed the C-section noting had I waited any longer my uterus would have ruptured. They then asked me while I was open if I wanted my tubes tied, frankly I think that’s something that should be discussed prior to being on the surgical table.“
“I was told I had to hold my baby in my arms all night after not sleeping for 48 hours as she had a lot of mucous. I told the nurse I wasn’t comfortable with it fearing I’d fall asleep and she’d roll into the blankets and potentially suffocate. I was told I didn’t have an option. They propped me up with pillows and laid her in my arms for the night. Fast forward over a year later, I was still waking up almost every night frantically checking the blankets for my daughter (who had never slept in our bed). I even had a night where I begged my husband to check the bed to make sure she wasn’t there even though she was in my arms”
“I was suicidal for years, and the way people treated me after the assault is a big factor in that. I attempted suicide about two weeks after the procedure. The hospital refused to let me stay after 72 hours because I was "just looking for a bed to mooch".
I still feel resentment about this. The main reason being it is 2018, over a decade later, and this is still a common story when it comes to sexual assault and abortions.
I was 14 and homeless. I am First Nations and gender-queer/2S. I didn't have the voice I have now, at 14. So, I never gave them feedback.”
“The next few days were not so good and I went from being fairly well to very ill requiring emergency surgery, being cut open from my breast bone to my pubic bone. Finding out I have a large cyst and umbilical hernia and had become septic. During surgery my heart stopped up to four separate times, leaving me in very poor condition in the ICU after surgery where I was to remain for many weeks.”
“What happens when patients raise the alarm about healthcare professionals practicing in their community? What does it take for the regulatory college to take these complaints seriously? What prevents doctors who do harm from jumping from hospital to hospital, and continuing to practice for years to come?”
“We need to feel comfortable saying “Stop!” when we see cervical checks without consent. Our clients should be the ones to advocate for themselves whenever possible, but there are times when they can’t and we must.”
Are you a doula or healthcare professional with a story to share about mistreatment and abuse in the healthcare system in Canada? Consider sharing your experiencehere on the Community Story Blog. Change can happen if we speak up together!
“As a Catholic teaching hospital, the cultural aversion to informed consent and bodily autonomy in your childbirth unit makes sense, however, some patients raised this culture as an area of concern in the feedback survey. You shared in your letter that you are “continuing to seek learning opportunities that expand care providers’ understanding of what obstetrical [sic] violence is and ways we can ensure patients don’t experience this under our care” In the meeting it was stated that “ideally we need to embed it into some standardized classes” but you were not able to speak to whether “obstetric violence” or “patient mistreatment” are terms that had come up at all yet, even in less formal conversations and huddles on the unit.
However, you expressed with certainty that there have still been no formalized discussions or training around what constitutes obstetric violence, and how to interrupt the cycle of obstetric violence in your Family Birthing Centre. It was also unclear whether the experiences of abuse and mistreatment some patients shared in their survey responses have been addressed in a comprehensive way.”
“To give an idea of how much blood I lost... I was severely anemic for almost 1 and 1/2 years after having my son. My hemoglobin was so low they weren't going to release me.
But this is when the most heartbreaking thing happened. I wasnt even clear to be released and we were told my son was lowest priority in the neonatal unit and was being transported to St. Catherine's, an hour or so away from our home.
My husband and I were devastated I contacted the hospital management and filed a complaint. But this did nothing. They took him without our expressed consent.”
“I was in tears. I was alone and scared that something was wrong. I had never felt a pain so strong and crushing before. I continued to call my nurse only to be ignored. It had been 8 hours of excruciating pain when a different nurse finally came in. She immediately ran to get my OB and within minutes I was being taken for a C-section. I was in class 3 HELLP syndrome. My liver was about to burst. I was about to die. I almost lost my life and my nurse thought it was gas.”
“And so, in went the pitocin. I made it clear that I only wanted the minimum amount, just enough to start regular contractions. Every time the nurse came to check on me and the machine, she'd raise the rate of delivery a little. When I caught her doing it and asked if she was increasing it, she outright lied and told me they were just trying to adjust the dosage to align with my contractions.”