"Not dying" during childbirth is not enough...

“In September 2017 the Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council (AHMAC) agreed to start a new process to develop a National Strategic Approach to Maternity Services (NSAMS). There are a wide range of interested stakeholders and views on maternity services in Australia. We want to hear from interested stakeholders on what you believe works well and what needs improvement.”

sydney birth photographer newborn hospital bed

Now in English.

The Government has heard the birth world’s cries. They have heard YOUR voice and have seen the waves we are making in the birth world. They hear us DEMANDING better care for birthing women and people alike.

The Government have stated that they want to, among other things:

  • Compare current evidence for maternity outcomes
  • Compare Australian outcomes nationally and internationally on quality and safety measures
  • Consider the strengths and weaknesses of the current system; and
  • Gain insights into key issues for both consumers and health providers in the provision of maternity services.

However, in the introduction to their National Maternity Services Plan they also state that

“Maternity care in Australia is among the safest in the world, with low maternal and perinatal mortality rates compared with other nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)”

Whilst that is great news…tell me….Why are women are coming out of giving birth to their children with PTSD. Why are women are saying they felt raped, threatened and bullied by their maternal health care providers? Why are birthing partners rattled and shaken after seeing their partners merciless to a system that completely disregards and overruns Australian parents? Why are babies taking birth trauma with them out into the world as their very first experience of their life on earth?

Because clearly, although our rates for maternal and perinatal mortality are quite low, even the Government knows that that is not enough.

Can we really say that our maternal health care system is “safe” simply because our Government can guarantee that you and your baby have a good chance of NOT DYING during birth?

Come on Australia, can we aim a little higher please? "Not dying" can't be our selling point. We need and deserve BETTER maternal outcomes.

sydney birth photographer mother labouring in hospital

Because, as a country we need to evolve. We need to constantly re-evaluate how we do things and listen to the voices of the general public to see what it is they want now and why. Because this is the basis of evidence based care. Because all women deserve to leave the birth of their children feeling supported, empowered and listened to (at the very fucking minimum.)

So what now?

We now have the opportunity to voice our concerns, experiences, feedback and stories with the Government to help inform their new maternity services strategy.

They call it ‘consulting’.

As few of you may be aware, I’ve worked for the Australian Government for over 10 years in my previous not-so-long-ago-life, and if this experience taught me one thing about how the Government treats the ‘consultation’ phase of new developments and strategies, it is that sometimes it is merely there to tick a box…”yes, we consulted with the public…see here, here and here”.

This box ticking agenda is further helped by the other main issue with most consultation phases, being the lack of public response.

Very few of the wider general public are made aware of the opportunity to reply and contribute and of those who are aware, even fewer make the time to do so.

Please, let that change here.

I have rattled on previously about my experiences with Australia’s maternal services (ahem or lack thereof) and I KNOW that every one of you reading would have a similar story to tell. Whether it be a first person account or a friend of yours who has told you their horrid birth story – consider contributing.

And please, don’t get stuck thinking that your story does not matter. You don’t need to have had a traumatic birth experience to have input worth contributing!

  • Did you ever receive conflicting advice when pregnant about optimal care, what to eat, whether to exercise, whether to breastfeed?
  • Did you feel pressured into consenting to an induction?

o   Were you aware that you had a choice in whether you were induced or not, regardless of “hospital policy”, were you made to feel like your choice mattered and did you feel safe enough to say no? Were the risks and statistics clearly and succinctly presented to you in an unbiased manner?

  • Was fear inducing language used by your care providers to make you feel as though your choices for the birth you wanted would be endangering your babies life?

o   Yes. This shit happens. And it is as simple as an obstetrician saying “You can risk a vaginal birth or I can deliver your baby safely to your arms in under half an hour with a c-section” – yes….those words were spoken to someone I personally know and that is a tame version, this shit happens day in day out in hospitals.

  • Were you given conflicting advice on how feed your newborn?

o   Were you made to fear that your newborn was not putting on enough weight within the timeframe given and thus feel pressured into supplementing your newborn with formula? Were you told you were breastfeeding your newborn too much?

  • Were you scared out of co-sleeping with your newborn?
     
  • Did you feel pressured into going against your gut feeling in any way, shape or form during your pregnancy, birth and immediate post-partum period?
sydney birth photographer newborn feet homebirth


All of these experiences matter! Your story, no matter how big or small, matters. Your opinion and your voice matters (listen to me….where is my megaphone!).

The proposed National Maternity Services Plan aims to address all of these issues which is why you should contribute!

The plan lists continuity of care and provision of a consistent language for health care providers in maternity services; this means less inconsistent advice across the board and all care providers being on the same page and providing the same level of care across the board to pregnant people and new mother’s alike.

The plan also addresses the need to reduce the numbers of interventions in births and aims to provide access to a range of models of maternity care and a capacity for women to make informed choices about their care (HELLO BODILY AUTONOMY!!!). This means care providers supporting women and families to make their own choices when it comes to their maternity care, rather than the strict “do this, push that, twist this” philosophy that we currently have.

We now have the opportunity to “reply” to the Government, to tell them our experiences, what we think needs to change or just to simply say that you support SOME FORM OF CHANGE, that you recognise that something does need to change. Even putting your name down and writing that you support the cause will help.

Getting the Government to change is like pushing a boulder up a mountain – maybe things will change for the better now, maybe they will later but they certainly won’t change if we don’t speak up and contribute and every little push matters (pun intended :D)

We can’t expect change and better outcomes without telling our stories. If not for yourself, but for all of the Australians who will be birthing for years to come.
 

How to contribute

I thought you’d never ask!

You can contribute online by visiting the below link and downloading a response template. You can then email your response through to the email address below:

https://consultations.health.gov.au/office-of-the-chief-nursing-and-midwifery-officer/national-strategic-approach-to-maternity-services/

NSAMS@health.gov.au

In addition to contributing your experiences and opinions online, you can also attend one of the many workshops which will commence around the country in May through to June this year. All details for these workshops is included in the link above.