When Birth Becomes a Violation

The issue of birth rape is a contentious one in our society, and not one that we approach lightly.  We do not use the words ‘birth’ and ‘rape’ together lightly, and we find it a highly emotionally-charged topic, one that we are extremely cautious about bringing up in a public forum.  However, we found it important to address the misperceptions presented to us in a comment to our blog recently.  We debated whether we should publish this woman’s comment, as it has the potential to be very hurtful and harmful to vulnerable women. However, misunderstandings such as these fuel the isolation experienced by women who are impacted by their birth, so we felt it necessary to ‘go there’ and talk about the issues that surround those times when birth becomes a violation.

This article has come about as the result of a comment by a woman named Jacinta.  This is not Jacinta’s first reply to a comment on our blog.  We have previously taken time to explain some issues about traumatic birth that she did not understand, on another post, where her comments had riled some readers, and to her merit, she wrote back, saying she felt she had learned something from our reply.  It is our hope that our post here will offer some similar opportunities to learn and understand the situation, and as a result perhaps offer some empathy to affected women.

Below, a woman named Lindsey is commenting about our inaugural post titled “The Truth About Traumatic Birth Is…”.  This article discussed the presence of lies, myths and misperceptions about traumatic birth, that each serve to maintain the deception that women  must just ‘get over it’ and ‘be grateful’.

Lindsey’s comment : “This is so true, it reminds me of when people tell a rape victim that they are “lucky” to be alive. it is completely ignorant because emotional well being is just as important as physical! thank you for spreading the message.”

We then received a reply to Lindsey’s comment from a woman named Jacinta.

Jacinta replied to Lindsey’s comment, saying : It is NOTHING like a rape victim being told they are lucky to be alive! Your baby did nothing wrong.. when someone is raped it is a crime, it involves malice and perverted behaviour. Your baby needed to get out, and you needed it out. That doesn’t even compare!! I am saddened by the fact that some women actually feel this way. As i have never, and never will. i DIDNT put my hand up for a cesarean, but it definitely isn’t the worst thing that could of happened to me or baby.

We felt it important to address the misunderstandings, and clear up the issues, so we have replied to Jacinta’s comment below.  We have not delved into the wider issues surrounding birth as a violation, but rather introduce the topic here to provide the opportunity for those who are new to the concept a chance to develop an initial understanding, which will hopefully lead to greater empathy for all women after birth.

Birthtalk’s reply : Jacinta – unfortunately, Lindsey is right.   Lindsey is saying nothing about the baby, but about the treatment some women receive whilst birthing their babies, whether caesarean birth or not. Telling a rape victim she is lucky to be alive can be invalidating of the horror she has been through, and raises feelings of guilt for feeling bad when ‘it could have been worse’.  This is very similar to telling a woman after a traumatic birth that she should be grateful that her baby is ok.  It is invalidating of the experience she has been through, and raises feelings of guilt in the mother for feeling bad when ‘it could have been worse’.  If a woman expresses distress as a response to either of these situations it would be entirely reasonable, and does not need to be played down or sweetened by telling her she should be grateful to be so ‘lucky’.

Sometimes, how a woman feels and what happens to her in childbirth is similar to how  women feel and what happens in a  sexual rape.  Many refer to this as birth rape, and this issue is not limited to women having caesareans.

How does birth rape compare to sexual rape?  For most sexual rape victims the emotional injuries often are more significant and longer lasting than the physical. (This is certainly not downplaying those women who sustain horrific physical trauma and long term damage in these situations. ) However, what all sexual rape victims share is being in a situation of being ultimately powerless, incredibly vulnerable, fearful and having someone cross decent boundaries with them. They have all had someone invading them without any respect or decency or even basic acknowledgment of their rights over their own body.

This is incredibly damaging and obviously a crime, whether the perpetrator did so with malice or not. (Yes, usually there is malice and negative intent, but let’s, for argument’s sake, take the example of a mentally unstable perpetrator, with grandiose ideas of how this will somehow be of benefit to her in the long run ‘if only she would be accepting of it’. Despite the lack of malice or ill intent, this still would not change the fact that she has been assaulted, emotionally and perhaps physically injured  and that this was a very real crime of sexual rape.)

Now lets look at birth assault/rape. A vulnerable woman, who is powerless to leave the situation, is at times held down against her will, has strangers looking & touching at private parts of her body, perhaps without appropriate measures being taken to acknowledge her ownership of her body or to preserve her comfort levels. Perhaps she has fingers or instruments inserted without her consent, and sometimes against her consent, invading and crossing decent boundaries.  She is fearful of what is happening to her  and perhaps for the wellbeing of her baby, and receives no reassurance that either she or her child are ok. That is a violation, no matter how you look at it.  Even IF this treatment is given with no malice and the intent of  attempting to assist her with birthing her child, there is NEVER a reason to forgo common decencies that will enable her to maintain a role in the birth, some autonomy over her body, to be involved in the decision-making, to be informed about what they want to do BEFORE they do it.  Abandoning a woman’s right to feelings of emotional safety is never ok.  Even in an emergency, there is usually the possibility of communicating effectively to reduce the chance of a woman feeling violated in an extremely vulnerable situation.

You are right – it is incredibly sad that some women feel that way.  But they feel that way with reason.  You appear to never have felt that way during your birth experience, because you were likely not treated that way.  You are right – a caesarean is in no way the worst thing that could happen to you or your baby.  It sounds like you would not have chosen a caesarean if you’d had the option, but that you were well-treated throughout the experience.  Which is fantastic. There is no reason all women should not be able to be treated and feel the same.

Yes, you had a caesarean.  But when another woman has a caesarean, and is so maltreated that she experiences the horror of having things done to her against her will or in a way so that she feels violated & cannot remove herself from the situation, you cannot say that your experiences were the same and you just coped better.  (and we should add that Lindsey, to whose comment you have replied, made no mention of her birth being a caesarean…that is an assumption you have made. Birth trauma, and indeed birth rape,  is just as possible in a vaginal birth).  As Lindsey says in her comment, ‘Emotional wellbeing is just as important’.  And has a lasting impact long after the birth. We hope this response helps you to better understand why women make these comparisons.

©Debby Gould, Melissa Bruijn, Birthtalk.org 2010

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  1. Good on you for taking on this huge issue. I personally believe that a lot of commenters denying the very idea! of women being sexually assaulted during birth, or before as in membrane stripping w/o consent, are actually coming from healthcare professionals who regularly participate in these violations and who are experiencing cognitive dissonance.

  2. Daniela · · Reply

    Thank you for this; it’s poignant and truthful and gives food for thought to those who so easily repeat the ‘at least xyz is ok’ mantra

  3. Rosey Smart-Vaher · · Reply

    Thankyou for keeping this subject open. We need to listen and HEAR so we can be different as friends and midwives and mothers. Blessings to all

  4. Thank you for the further comment on this topic. No matter how a women gives birth (caesarian/vaginally) she can certainally feel raped if she feels distressed or violated, or is actually physically hurt by multiple vaginal exams and interventions ‘down there’. These may all be done to aid the delivery of the child, and be in the best interests of mother and baby, BUT if they are delivered or received in a manner which results in the women ‘feeling raped’ then THERE IS a problem. Each women’s feelings and perception of her birth expreience are different and go on to have far reaching consequences affecting bonding and caring for her child, relations with her partner, wider family, and medical professionals. A poor birthing experience can have severe emotional and psychological consequences for some women, and for a long time. As women we must all try to understand each others’ point of view and offer support where we see another reaching out for help through her story. Some women may feel ‘birth raped’ and not even know the term, making it harder for them to explain and stand up for their feelings. Any bad experience is bad, even if ‘it could have been worse’.

  5. Birth rape, violation, unconsensual examination whatever you want to call it, it makes no difference to how a woman feels during or after the event. When a woman goes through a birth and then is unable to bond with her baby for 5 months, considers self abortion in preference of going through another birth or having to seek medical help and then is unable to allow her husband true intimacy as she no longer wishes to be touched, and this the because when being examined the doctor wouldn’t stop when asked then screamed at then kicked and then when a complaint was made to the hospital, they just brushed it off, what do you call that as I no longer know.

    1. Yasmin, we want to thank you for taking the time to share the magnitude of the fallout when a woman is so unacknowledged by a health carer on so many levels. We know that what you experienced during your birth has so impacted upon your postnatal life and beyond, and understandably so. Thank you for sharing just what it was like for you, and how it continues to affect your life. We want to acknowledge your strength and courage to get through the experience, and we wish you all the best for your continuing healing journey.

  6. I can understand how birthng can be very traumatic for some mothers and sometimes things don’t always go well, I am a mum of three and I know how painful and stressful things can get when you are in labour. However a do believe that sometimes procedures need to expedited and carried out quickly for the safety of mum and baby. I would rather have doctors/nurses/midwifes do what they must if there was an issue of danger for mum or baby. I only have witnessed too many a time what can go wrong when situations go pear shaped, and how quickly the life of the baby and mum can get dangerously close to fatal consequences, and do sometimes if certain procedures are not carried out ASAP.

  7. while i agree that many people may have had a traumatic experience during child birth due to health care professionals not gaining consent prior to procedures. I do feel that rape is a bit too severe term. These health care professionals are not touching them in a perverted way (hopefully), and have absolutely no sexual intent what so ever. violation is what it should be described as. legally these medical professionals should be obtaining consent prior to the majority of these procedures, and if they don’t then it is up to the mother or observing health care professionals to speak up. During birth sometimes things may be getting dangerous for the baby or mother and consent can sometimes slip the mind of the doctor. This does not mean it is rape, but poor communication and poor treatment.

    I think it is unacceptable for the medical professional to continue the procedure if the mother objects. This is against the law and should be reported. The only time that it may be an exemption is if the baby’s life depends on this procedure. This could be perceived as negligence by the mother as she is refusing medical treatment that the baby is required to have (eg. cutting of the membranes to get the baby out faster due to fetal distress). It is the baby’s right to recieve medical treatment.

    1. Just a few comments. As a midwife, I have seen and heard the aftermath of a traumatic birth and women do remember their births forever. No one other than the woman in the situation can perceive it in the way she has, it is a unique experience to her. I believe when women tell me that they ‘wished someone would just turn the switch off’ (about their life), that we cannot tell them that their experience is not valid or true. Also consider that rape itself is not about sex. Further to this legally the unborn baby has no legal rights until they’re born. Finally consent is not optional and cannot ‘slip their minds’. A woman has a right to choose and refuse ANY element of care. The situations when women give experience of traumatic births is when healthcare practitioners do not care for them and treat them without the due respect and right to self determination all women should have.

    2. so…if a man just forces himself into a woman without asking, that is poor communication? Because he didn’t ask and she didn’t have the chance to say no, it’s ok? NO, it is RAPE. The woman’s right to decide what happens to her body is transgressed. I see no difference at all. In rape there is one vulnerable person and one person with all the power – power which is abused for selfish reasons. People in such positions of power are responsible for ensuring consent, to just ‘forget’ to get consent is not a mistake it’s negligent, disrespectful and unacceptable.

    3. “Things may be getting dangerous for the baby or mother and consent can sometimes slip the mind of the doctor”.

      ummm…seriously? Okay, let’s see:

      1) I’ve been given sedatives without consent – and without being informed I was getting them.
      2) I’ve had nurses and an intern shove their fingers into me to do a vaginal exam, and once to place a fetal scalp monitor, without consent. In the case of the monitor, I wasn’t even being told that she was screwing a wire into my baby’s head.
      3) I’ve had a lactation consultant literally grab my breast and take my baby from my husband as he was about to latch our son to the breast. She then continued the latching process…and never asked for consent. She didn’t even tell me who she was until the whole thing was over (yes – a total stranger walked into my hospital room, stepped in between me and my husband, grabbed my baby and grabbed my exposed breast…all without consent).
      4) I’ve had a c-section performed for a breech baby, *after* I refused consent.

      Not a single one of these situations involved any danger to me or my baby. The only one in which anyone could have remotely felt that there was even any urgency was number four. Doctors (and other medical professionals) aren’t forgetting to get consent in the heat of the moment. They just don’t see consent as being important. Oddly enough, in the only case when I was in a true emergency situation, the OB told me I needed a c-section, and then looked to me for consent. So, there was time to ask for consent in the case of an emergency…but not in the case of wanting to place a monitor.

      With respect to the term “birth rape”, I’ve never used it. I’ve also never been raped. However, I have talked to more than one person who has experienced birth rape and rape. Most of them have said, flat out, that the birth rape was a worse experience, which caused more damage than the rape. I certainly don’t feel that I have any right to tell them that they’re wrong about which experience hurt them most.

    4. Yes, I agree there are times when we don’t have time for niceties. As a Doula I tell my clients about TBRAINS

      Time/ Talk – Do we have time to talk about this? Can you talk to me about this?
      Benefits – What are the benefits of doing this?
      Risks – What are the risks of doing this?
      Alternatives – What are the alternatives?
      Instinct – What does my instinct tell me?
      Nothing – What would happen if we did nothing and waited?
      Smile – Smiling can lift your mood and those around you.

      I always tell them about my story. My obstetrician did a VE and said “We need this baby out”. If I had asked for him to talk, he’d have said we didn’t have the time. My second section I asked for the toilet and they said “We don’t have time to wait, we need to get you in now. I still had to have explained and sign three consent forms (section, GA, NNU) and they still had my baby out within 20 minutes of the doctor saying “We need this baby out”. What should have been done then is for them to come back and tell me the rest of TBRAINS. To debrief my birth.

      I’m interested to know when you think sex ever became a part of rape? It’s about power and violation, both are things doctors are doing.

      What I’m REALLY interested to know though, is when it became your place to tell another woman how to label her experiences? You haven’t lived through her life and experiences, you are not qualified to tell her what to call her experience.

      I’ve been raped and I’ve had a traumatic birth, not one I would label as birth rape though my doctors were brilliant it was an unfortunate situations, but do you know what? My traumatic birth was the hardest one to deal with. Rape is a bad situation, nothing about it is good. Birth is supposed to be brilliant, the little life you created you bring into the world and you meet for the first time, you hold them to your breast, you get to know them… it’s all supposed to be good. But then you have all these other very scary things happening, doctors who treat your body like it doesn’t belong to you anymore. Men ramming their fingers inside you without warning you. Being belittled and patronised (I bet we’ve all heard variations on “Good girl“) treated like trash because you dared to get pregnant. What should be a good experience is violently snatched from you and thrown away. You’re trying to bond with this little life and all that’s in your head is the situation they came into the world in. Their life now represents fear and you have to look after, love that child who reminds you of being scared and violated.

      1. Bexydoo · ·

        “What should be a good experience is violently snatched from you and thrown away. You’re trying to bond with this little life and all that’s in your head is the situation they came into the world in. Their life now represents fear and you have to look after, love that child who reminds you of being scared and violated.”

        Wow! Thanks for putting it so explicitly. I know this was written quite some time ago but I’ve only just come across it.

        I’ve just “celebrated” (read: endured) the 2nd anniversary, otherwise known as my daughter’s 2nd birthday. As she was also born on my birthday everybody thinks it’s twice as great a day – but I’ve given up trying to explain that no body wants to celebrate what they perceive to be the worst day of their lives, especially when that worst day should have been the very best.

        I am now unexpectedly pregnant with my second, and it has been nothing but a roller-coaster ride of fear, paranoia, denial etc. Every congratulations received fills me with anxiety. Every talk or mention of birth fills triggers my defense mechanism and trauma-survival instincts. I have lied about the doctor I visit this time, lied about my plans for this birth, even to my immediate family.I am judged because I have chosen to take action against the doctor involved and mostly told, inc by strangers/friends of parents to just put it behind me and move on. Most important is a healthy baby. Yeah, right! Screw the emotional and health needs of the mother – after all, once baby is born, she must become a robot and function solely for the baby’s needs regardless of everything; because “happy mother, happy baby” is just a myth.

        I was never raped (Thank God), but I definitely was birth raped. I was lied to, coerced, had unnecessary forceful power exerted over me. I had all my worries brushed aside with more lies. I was repeatedly examined vaginally through the pregnancy for one bogus reason or another. I was bullied into consenting to procedures I didn’t need. I was made to constantly fear for my baby’s life. The list goes on and on and on. So yes, my body was abused by someone – a man in this case – who chose to exert mental and physical power over me, who violated my dignity, my privacy, my sense of security, my sanity, my ability to mother my child, my ability to function on a day to day basis, and my physical health was also damaged in the process.

        So those who did not stand in my or other birth-rape victim’s shoes, should not preach on the validity of the term “birth rape” or its connotations!

      2. Thank you so much for your comments, and for sharing your experience. We are so sorry to hear of your experience, and want to let you know that if we can be of any support as you prepare for this next birth, we’ love to help. Please keep in mind that Deb from Birthtalk.org holds private sessions for just this type of thing – via Skype or phone if you are interstate or international (we are in Brisbane, Australia). You can read more at http://debbygould.wordpress.com Thanks again for commenting, and wishing you healing and peace as you work to meet your new little one 🙂

  8. Thank you for this thought provoking piece. Birth rape is something I am only just learning of, having only experienced excellent treatment during a homebirth. I would like to say though, that I think rape is the best term to use in the context of violation of womens bodies especially their vaginas. I know doctors and care providers may not have sexual intent, but they are violating sexual organs and womens bodies from a position of power. That IS rape. To try and downplay the trauma women feel and say rape is too harsh a word invalidates many womens experience. It’s like telling a woman with PND it’s ‘just baby blues’. Only that individual knows the severity of their pain.

  9. To B. Jac: I believe the difference in your understanding here comes from a misunderstanding of rape. Rape is not about sex, at least not the kind of rape that this article seems to be referencing. Rape is about power, and unfortunately, there are a lot of people who do not believe that women should be the ones with power during their births.

    When it is your body and your baby working together to bring that baby into the world, the doctor is incidental. She is there in case something goes wrong. When the doctor decides that she wants to be in control, that is what leads to birthrape. Rape and sexual assault are, at the very basic level, not about sexual gratification or even non-consensual sexual submission. They are about someone else taking power and choice away from you when it is NOT about them. There should never be a situation where the doctor chooses to perform a certain exam. The situation should instead involve the mother being told the option and the reasons for the exam, and then choosing to have it performed. The mother’s body, the mother’s baby, the mother’s decision.

  10. I don’t usually respond to this sort of stuff, I find it hard to talk about anything personal(as the birth talk ladies can testify lmao) but I feel having been through both I feel I’m qualified to comment. As a teen I went through a pretty traumatic experience that certainly changed me. But I was able to move on, it took a couple of years to stop punishing myself but I eventually chalked it up to experience and got on with my life. Then I had children… My first birth was the most horrific thing I have ever been through I still cannot yak about it nearly 10 years later without tears in my eyes, that was followed up 14 months later by another terrible experience. I shelved it, gave it the birth label and tried to move on, but it was always there, it nearly ruined my marriage, left emotional scars on my eldest, and took me to a very dark place. All the while I kept living in a role I couldn’t love because I was so damaged. Years down the track I had a little surprise, and I was ok with it because I’m older and wiser and far more stubborn. But I got to single digit count down and became a complete wreck. I attended birth talk and got a much better understanding of what was going on, I went on to have an awesome experience, there isn’t a day i don’t grieve what should have been but now I can truly move on.
    Moral of the story Is thou, you are right, rape is not the word I would use, it doesn’t even begin to cover what happened to me, it seems somewhat insignificant and too mild a term. Not only did I walk away feeling violated physically and emotionally but it has dn near distroyed the lives of those I love most as well. A rape victim can seek comfort and justice, never has to brush it under the carpet, a violated mother is alone and often rebuffed if they speak out. They have to carry on in this journey, all the while trying to give what they can to a dependent fragile being that they are the whole world to. I wish I had found birthtalk sooner, but I am lucky I found it at all.

  11. BJac – maybe it’s different where you live, but normally the ‘baby’ has no right to medical treatment before it is actually born, it’s legally considered a fetus and not a person. So the woman has no obligation to allow procedures to be carried out on her body, even to save the life of the fetus.

    Of course most women want the best for their baby and would more than happily consent to whatever is necessary in such a situation. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to obtain consent and treat the woman as a human being with rights, just as you would hope would be done in any other medical situation. And it’s important to note than many cases of birth violation are not life-or-death situations at all, but just routine internal examinations, stripping membranes etc, which it’s entirely reasonable for a woman to refuse if she prefers not to have such interference in her labour.

    By the way, I do think it is something very like rape if obtaining consent ‘slips the mind’ of the doctor – just as it would be rape to have sex with a woman and just ‘forget’ to check whether she actually wants to. I don’t agree it should have to be the woman’s responsibility to ‘speak up’ and make sure she’s treated properly, that’s dangerously close to blaming the victim. Not to mention that when women do object, they’re often ignored or even physically held down.

    I do not have direct experience of this myself, not being a mother, so I hope no one objects to me commenting. But I am a rape/sexual abuse survivor, and the stories of violation during birth resonate with me very much – the fear of this sort of treatment is a major reason I’ve felt unable to have a baby so far. Even leaving aside the extreme examples of clear violation, there seems to be a general tendency to treat pregnant/labouring women as less than properly human.

    1. comadrona · · Reply

      Just saw this thread many months after the fact but…I think your comment is valid – whether or not you have had a baby. As a midwife I have met many women who have felt violated by their treatment during their birth and, as a result, have stopped at one child. The similarities are numerous – and I also have had personal experience of birth violation myself, more than once. Happily for me I had a wonderful home birth with my last child which went a long way to healing me. But there is something else that mothers don’t talk about – the real incidence of the impact of all that stress, those drugs, that pain, on the baby and person that the baby becomes. The birth can truly alter how we feel about that child – no matter how much we try to compensate. Such a lot of unlooked for consequences for the actions of ignorant and unfeeling health professionals!

      1. Comadrona – I agree with your comments entirely. I had bonding issues with my one and only child. Traumatic birth led to PND and Post Traumatic Stress. It’s impossible to be a loving, connected and nurturing mother when you are inside your head dealing with those problems. It’s also very hard not to resent the child emotionally even though logically you know the situation was not their fault. It is well documented how disrupted bonding interferes with a child’s development in so many ways. These children often have challenging behaviours that any parent would wear thin of, let alone a parent who has broken self esteem and is struggling to cope with life’s simple daily routines. Perhaps the link between birth trauma and poor bonding could be researched some more to put weight behind a change in opinions.

  12. Sarah – thanks so much for your contribution – I personally welcome it and welcome you to the discussion. My next comment may offend some people, but I have always believed in what you say in your first sentence. The devastation described by Kylie shows one of many reasons why the mother should have first priority in the birthing situation. A damaged or absent (mentally or physically) mother is of no use to a vulnerable newborn and can usually concieve another child if the unfortunate happens. In fact a damaged mother can cause more harm to her child than no mother at all.

    The medical profession in general do seem to ‘hear’ what they want rather than listen to what is being said. One example of this in my experience is “We’re going to put a urinary catheter in now even though you say in your birth plan you don’t want an epiduarl. Because you’ll end up needing one later so we can be prepared by having the catheter in now.”
    Hmmmm – just one more way to tie me to the bed.

    To hear a victim of sexual violation say basically that they understand my feelings is a huge validation. This person has not been through the birthing experience yet is willing to tell me my feelings are legitimate and not unfounded. Thank you.
    And best wishes for any pregnancy and birth you may have in the future if that is what you are hoping for.

  13. Thank you for the link to this post. This is Nathalie from Adventures in Frugal Living, and you left a comment on my postpartum depression post. One of the most important moments on my journey from unplanned c-section to HBAC was the first time I read the term “birth rape.” I had never heard it before, but somehow the sound of it had a very familiar feeling and I felt like I already knew what it meant. I read dozens and dozens of message board posts, blogs, and journals from other women who had this kind of birth experience, and from then on I began the long process of healing.

  14. Rape *is* about dominance, and only dominance, and every single one of these harrowing accounts of women being objectified and handled like so much meat on a table without any say whatsoever is indeed an account of rape having happened. Their traumatic afterexperiences only cement that take.

  15. I think women are violated everyday in the name of healthcare. Luckily I dont feel long term trauma after the birth of my youngest son but I wonder why I dont as his birth was horrific. I cant prove it but I feel that because I had a prenatal diagnosis of Downs syndrome and chose not to abort that I was judged and treated badly. At one point I was pushing and experiencing such incredible pain that I wished to die as a way out and consoled myself that my family and partner could bring up my children, and the midwife told me I wasnt pushing! My placenta was retained after the same midwife pulled hard on the umbilical cord and I was taken into surgery, I had to beg for GA and they told me I should have an epidural and be awake for the procedure! After the trauma of the birth they wanted me to be awake while a surgeon went elbow deep in my womb through my vagina? As I came round from the GA the sme midwife was pushing so hard on my uterus I almost threw up, she came back time and time again to press and check my uterus each time without consent or warning, eventually I grabbed her arm to stop her and she fought me without looking me in the eye or talking to me. They took blood over and over again, in the end I refused to allow it, the stress was too much, my baby was in special care and no matter how much I begged no one would tell me how much he weighed, what colour his eyes were, it was as if his disability made him less of a bby and me less of a mother, I eventually broke down to such a state that they wheeled me to see him. I agree totally with peoples reaction of, well you’re fine and babys fine, thats all that matters, its not, I’m still angry with the hospital and as it stands I wont have another baby until I can deal with it as I wont go through it again.

    Even my prenatal care once we had the diagnosis was terrible, one midwife told me ” I once worked in a care home for children with disabilitys and we had a room for the Downs syndrome teenagers to ‘relieve’ themseleves sexually” I just stared at her and she glared and said she thought I would have found it funny?

  16. my little girl is now 3, and the memories of her birth still haunt me. When they come flooding back i spiral into depression. every time id try to explain what happened to me, id get looked at and mocked like i was being stupid about the whole thing. Those type of comments would always make depression worse. In the hospital my contractions werent very strong. So was given injection to bring them on. If it was just let to do its thing instead of 2 surgeons rush in and start yelling at me. Then one wanted to do an internal examination. The other outside with my husband having a barney. I wasnt given anytime to mentally prepare for a man to shove his hand up inside me. I started screaming to stop because it hurt like hell. He said to me to lay back and let him do this or i could get out and have my baby on the street. For months after i wouldnt let my husband near me. I was so traumatised. I was violated and couldnt do a damn thing to stop it.
    No body seemed to understand. My mother in law keeps pestering me to have another one. She especially thinks im stupid. Its nice to find people who understand. And acknowledge that the trauma is real.

  17. I had an awful experience with my first birth and had never come across the term ‘birth rape’ before but I can say hand on heart this is how I would describe what happened to me. I was induced due to gestational diabetes only reason being my baby was putting on so much weight baby was doing fine all the way through and while my midwife was preforming an internal examination I told her it hurt and if she could stop I had to tell her 3 times before she reluctantly pulled her hand from inside of me she then grabbed something and without telling me dammed a hook inside of me the pain was so intense I scream and wriggling to get it out but she held my legs down and pushed it harder so much I felt my insides were on fire. When she finished she said ‘right your waters are broke ‘ and walked of while I layer on the bed in agony and shaking from what shed done without my knowledge or consent, knowing I found the initial examination painful. My baby didn’t come for another 36 hours so I know that this was not a nesisary procedure. I remember nothing much of that birth but I remember that violation like it had just happened even though it was now 7 years ago. Birth rape does exist and I’m so glad otheg people take this format of abuse seriously

    1. Jade, thank you so much for sharing your experience. We are so sorry to hear how you were treated, and we could completely understand that this has had an emotional impact upon you. If you want to contact us at info@birthtalk.org we could possible link you to some support services that may be able to help you debrief and make sense of this. We really appreciate your comment, thank you.

  18. I told my husband that all the hospital saw me as was the wrapper that the baby inconveniently came in. I was treated as if I was standing in the way of their goal, which was a breathing baby outside of its mother.
    I was violated physically and emotionally in too many ways to list. I am still in the early stages of my ptsd diagnosis but I hope with all I have that I can find a way out of it.

    1. Thank you so much for commenting, Erin. We are so sorry to hear of your experience. Best wishes with your recovery, and I want you to know that we hear a lot of women describe their births the way you have…which does not at ALL make it ok, or make it better, but we just want you to know that you are not alone, and that it is possible to heal. x

  19. As a husband and a father of a girl I thank you for just opening my eyes. I never thought before of what women go through when giving birth in terms of their human dignity. Never before I wondered for another explanation to my wife’s depression after childbirth. Men has to realize we caused pain to our mothers and they just swallowed it to care immediately for us. Doctors and health professionals must ask themselves how would they liked to be treated when they are in a vulnerable position.

  20. Keep in mind when you ask for a natual birth, you have to be on guard the hole time. I only wanted a natual birth and was only open to medical intervention if my child and i where going to die. I was violated when as soon as my child was being born i recieved a needle to my upper leg and then had the doctor rip my plasenta from my vag area. There was no need for it. The hole time i was mortified and kept asking him what he was doing. He did not explain him self but made me feel like he was doing me a favor and i should feel lucky. I think he just wanted to go home early as it was past 10pm. I hated the experience. Blood was every where. I only stayed in the hospital till it was light out and then left with my child & husband. Now im ready to birth our next one and im really hoping for a home birth. Im even going to keep it from my husband when the contractions begin. Maybe it will be to late to make the trip. When you want a natual birth, that should includes the plasenta as well. I feel the idea of narual birth is a right. They do so many test and are constantly preping you for the worst. All i feel is negativity from the hospital staff and doctors. It’s like unless their heavily involved, they’re not doing there job. Never again.

    1. Hi Sirena – thanks for your comment. We are so sorry to hear about your previous experience. We can completely understand that this has had an impact upon you, and that you are looking for a different experience this time around. However, we do encourage you to birth where there is a qualified health professional to support you and your baby. Have you considered contacting a registered homebirth midwife? We can see from your IP address that you are in Alberta, Canada? We encourage you to contact a midwife on the following list : https://www.abmidwives.ca/find-a-midwife/by-area-served/ and see if she can offer you support or at least advice on how to get your needs met in the hospital. You might also find the tips at the end of this article we have written helpful, regarding what questions to ask of your carers : https://birthtraumatruths.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/the-pitfalls-of-going-with-the-flow-in-birth/ Best wishes with this next birth, and thank you for your comment, we really appreciate it 🙂

  21. I completely understand this. The trauma I endured had nothing to do with my baby, who had already been born at home with our midwife, but a postpartum hemorrhage after. First the hospital left me bleeding to death in the ER for twenty minutes before deciding to do anything. Thank God my midwife was able to stop the bleeding herself. Second, they decided to do a d&c, without notice, consent, or anesthesia. The doctor was incredibly rough, and did it by hand. He acted like I had no right to complain about the pain, giving me a bored disinterested tone. Meanwhile, my insides are brutally being dug out and I’m worried he’s going to rip out my stitches, since my midwife had repaired a second degree tear just before all this happened. Not all birth trauma has to do with c-section and such, sometimes it literally is like rape. The real kick in the teeth is when the doctor got done, said, well the bleeding stopped awhile ago and there was nothing left in there…So basically I didn’t even need the procedure done in the first place. I don’t know if I’ll get past this, but no one should trivialize these experiences.

    1. Tali – thank you so much for your comment. We are just so very sorry to hear about your experience – what a challenging and horrific situation you were in. You are so right – no one should trivialise these experiences – they have the potential to impact our lives in so many ways. We hope you have access to appropriate support as you work through this. We encourage you to continue to take the journey towards healing – and if we can support you with this, please do contact us. We are here, and we hear you. xx

  22. Consent is not only vital but also something of a complex thing within an unbalanced power dynamic (and recognised to be so outside of a medical arena). I was induced for suspected pre-eclampsia and gave consent because I was afraid for my baby and myself, despite not being satisfied it was the right course of action. Everything that followed felt against my will and I am only just realising how much feelings of violation play a part in my ptsd, 21 months later.

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