How the Government is restricting our access to safe home birth!
On Saturday I attended the Mother’s for Midwives March in the Sydney CBD. This rally was organised by a few key women from the Homebirth Consortium Australia (HCA) to bring attention to and protest the current government policies restricting Privately Practising Midwives (PPMs) from adequately supporting women who choose to birth at home in Australia.
PPMs are midwives who choose not to work for State or Federal Health Departments and instead choose to practice, yep you guessed it, privately. They can support both hospital and home birthing women and are an absolute credit to the birth world.
Some PPMs have chosen to go into private practice after years of working in the medical system and being exposed to its faults, debilitating policies and mistreatment of birthing women and their families.
Midwifery is a model of care that predates and overlaps with medicine.
Midwifery is a model of care that predates and overlaps with medicine. It is the speciality of supporting women in using their own bodies, brains and strength to give birth. Midwifery led care depends less on interventions because it relies more on the capabilities of women.
Midwives are passionate about birth and have birthing womens’ emotional, psychological and social best interests at heart but their want to do right by their birthing mummas is sometimes overruled by outdated hospital policy, obstetricians who are a little too “intervention trigger happy” and the medical system as a whole.
As Professor Hannah Dahlen, famed midwife and academic said in the recent Birth Time ‘Feminism and Human Rights in Childbirth’ event:
“Australia is a safe place to have a baby but…about 1 in 10 women are coming out with significant birth trauma, PTSD, and at the root of their PTSD is things that have happened in their past and when they come to give birth… they are not listened to, feel out of control, not given consent…”
Did you know that women in Australia are going into hospitals for one of life’s most joyous and beautiful events, and coming out instead with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? What. The. Actual. Fuck. Australia.
1 in 10. How is that okay?
Women are coming out of births in hospitals having been bullied, degraded and treated with violence by the very people in our medical system who are there to take care of us! Birthing women are using words such as “rape”, “violated” and “shame” to describe their experiences. Women tell stories of care providers who have whispered threats and insults in their ears as they are being put under for c-sections or right before a care provider gives them an unconsented episiotomy.
No word of a lie, this shit is happening right here in our beloved country, Australia. Obstetric violence is real and rife in our medical system...
And it doesn’t just stop with the birth experience from the mothers' perspective; a negative birth means mothers are more likely to be depressed and this can then affect their relationship with their baby and thus impact on the baby’s development. Not to mention the flow on effects to Post Natal Depression…
Birthing women are noticing this trend in the birth world of the medical system too, hence why more and more women are choosing to deviate from the “norm” and birth their babies at home. At home where they feel safest, most supported and most comfortable.
However, the Government is determined to make homebirth access unattainable for a lot of women.
In most states in Australia, PPMs are one of the only options for women seeking to birth at home with medical professionals present. There are only a handful of publicly funded home birth programs in Australia and this lack of access to a basic human right to birth where you feel safest and most comfortable is atrocious.
I fully understand that to a lot of women out there, homebirth is and may never be a consideration for them – but when you look at the CHOICE for women to birth as a human right, the fact that the Government is restricting this choice for women is just fucking appalling and actually really bloody hard to believe, I thought we were living in 2018, someone might want to let the Government know because clearly they’re not aware…
So how are they restricting Australians’ access to homebirth?
The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law states that a midwife must not practise midwifery unless the midwife has appropriate professional indemnity insurance however, currently in Australia there is no such professional indemnity insurance product available for PPMs to purchase to cover them for the ‘intra-partum’ period – they can only get insurance for pre and post-natal periods for the women they support at homebirths.
In a nutshell; the Government made it a requirement that PPMs get a specific insurance product and then made it impossible for them to get said product.
The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia also brought in the ‘Safety and Quality Guidelines for privately practicing midwives attending home births’ which made it a requirement for PPMs to have two midwives attend homebirths – this has made it unaffordable for consumers to access homebirth through PPMs as the rate they pay for their midwives has increased to cater to this requirement.
The Government then implemented Section 284 of the National Law which gives PPMs providing homebirth services an exemption from the professional indemnity insurance requirement, however the exemption is currently in place until 31 December 2019 only. Just over 18 months away it will be illegal for PPMs to support women in their choice to homebirth.
A fundamental human right is at risk of being taken away from all Australian women. The choice to birth, their own children, with their own bodies, in their own homes.
Even if home birth is not something you have ever or would ever consider for yourself, I hope that you can see this for the violation of human rights that it plainly is.
It is not okay for the Australian government to try to restrict what its’ female citizens can do with their bodies when birthing their babies. Women are seeking homebirth as a way to escape a flawed and dangerous medical system and soon that will be taken away from them.
Women are being backed into a corner when seeking care at such a vulnerable time in their lives.
Midwives support women emotionally, psychologically and socially.
The ‘Mothers for Midwives’ March aimed to provide a platform for Homebirth Consortium Australia to call on the Government to make changes to the current policies and guidelines restricting PPMs from operating their businesses and being able to effectively support women who chose to birth at home with PPMs present.
The current policies make home birth a pipe dream for some Australian families with the costs of hiring PPMs ranging from $3,000 to $6,000. Furthermore, families in some regional and rural locations aren’t able to secure PPMs to facilitate their home births at all due to the “two midwives” rule; there simply just aren’t enough PPMs in some locations to make this possible.
How you can help!
Be aware of the issue. Share it with your networks if this resonates with you.
1- Sign the Mothers for Midwives petition from Homebirth Consortium Australia:
2- Follow and like the organisations who are lobbying for change:
Homebirth Consortium Australia - https://www.facebook.com/HomebirthConsortium/
Maternity Consumer Network – https://www.facebook.com/maternityconsumernetwork/
Homebirth Australia – https://www.facebook.com/homebirthaustralia/
Birth Time Documentary – https://www.birthtime.world/