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NSW Parliament committee on birth trauma delivers final report

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Birth trauma is a “result of inappropriate, disrespectful or abusive treatment before, during and after birth”.
NSW birth trauma

A NSW parliamentary committee has recommended the State Government make “urgent efforts” to avoid birth trauma.

Birth trauma is a “result of inappropriate, disrespectful or abusive treatment before, during and after birth”. The Committee cited a study showing one in three NSW mothers or birthing parents had reported a “potentially traumatic birth experience”.

Committee chair Animal Justice Party MP Emma Hurst said there was a growing understanding that birth trauma is a “form of gendered violence.”

Birth trauma committee

In June 2023, a NSW Parliamentary Committee investigating birth trauma was established with the support of the Government, the Opposition, and crossbenchers including the Greens.

The Committee received over 4,000 submissions from patients, doctors, midwives, and experts.

It found that some of the main issues included experiences of inadequate or disrespectful care, and a perception that the focus was solely on the result of the birth and did not consider the experience of the mother.

It also said that many mothers did not believe informed consent was a priority, and that there was a lack of “cultural competency” and inclusion.

The Committee also heard from medical professionals who gave evidence of severe understaffing, resource constraints and a lack of trauma-informed training.

Recommendations

The Committee made 43 recommendations to address “avoidable and preventable” factors that contribute to birth trauma.

One recommendation was to invest and expand midwifery ‘continuity of carer’ services. This is a model where parents will only see one midwife or a small team of midwives throughout pregnancy, labour, birth, and the postpartum period.

The Committee also recommended midwives receive more education on trauma-informed care, and for birthing parents to receive “clear and comprehensive education” to ensure consent is fully informed.

Government response

The NSW Government has until the end of August to respond to the Committee’s report.

In the meantime, a spokesperson told TDA: “NSW Health apologises to these women, who did not receive the high standard of maternity care that they should have.”

Health Minister Ryan Park said: “I’m determined to make sure that we have birthing processes… that are engaged deeply with women from the very beginning of the process… so that they don’t feel like they’re an outsider giving birth.”

Other responses

Hurst said: “Our hope is that the evidence documented in this report will… prompt action across Australia and the world with the hope that every birth is met with dignity, respect and compassion.”

Shadow Health Minister Matt Kean told TDA: “We continue holding the Minns Labor Government to account on the delivery of funding and health services for our community, including with calls on the Government to respond to the Committee’s recommendations.”

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