Women’s experiences of perceived traumatic vaginal birth in Australian maternity settings

Arimaya Yates, Linda Katherine Jones, Merv Jackson


Objective: Before the beginning of medicalisation in Australia during the 1950s, childbirth was the sole domain of women. Contemporary birthing practices have posed a more medicalised technological environment on women resulting in both good and bad outcomes. In recent surveys, 45.5% of Australian women reported experiencing birth as traumatic; with nearly 20% experiencing postnatal depression. While there have been some studies on women’s trauma experiencing a caesarean section, minimal research has been completed into perceived traumatic experiences related to normal vaginal births.

Methods: This study utilized a qualitative methodology to explore psychological and emotional impact of women’s experiences with perceived traumatic normal births. The research used an in-depth semi-structured interview and analysed the data within the phenomenological paradigm. The data analysis revealed nine themes: I was determined to birth naturally; Not telling me what they were doing; I just had to force her to be born; it was really horrific; I know that is just what the system is like. . . they’re hospital midwives. . . they’re medical; I didn’t feel connected to them; She stood up for me; After the birth, just horrible; I deserve a better birth.

Results: Although the rates are unclear, these findings highlight that some women suffer trauma from their experience of a normal vaginal birth. The perceived causes include: midwives not always being with women and supporting physiological childbirth; women not being fully informed; power asymmetries and hegemony inside the birthing room; and a fetocentric model of care that left women feeling disrespected, disempowered and objectified.

Conclusions: The findings indicate a need for midwives to truly be with women and provide continuity of care, as well as supporting the physiological process of childbirth, medical and midwifery professional education on trauma awareness following birth, a rethinking of antenatal education programs to include coping strategies and greater midwifery support in the hospital post-natal stay.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/ijh.v5n2p1


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International Journal of Healthcare  ISSN 2377-7338(Print)  ISSN 2377-7346(Online)

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