“Every woman who finds herself in the space of being able to speak up, is providing more than she can ever know for those around her, as yet unable to speak.”
Janet Fraser, National Convenor of the Australian Homebirth Network
Many women have unnecessary, invasive procedures done on them during pregnancy or childbirth, against their choice or without their informed consent. Such acts of obstetric violence can cause deep psychological trauma to women and lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and postpartum depression. Below are some stories by women who have decided to speak up about what they went through, despite the many societal pressures to remain silent.
Sandra Kwitkoski is a community support worker from Chilliwack, BC, who suffered PTSD after giving birth to her fourth child in 2008. She declined an intervention recommended by her doctor – an induction at 38 weeks of pregnancy – and chose home birth which was then transferred to Chilliwack General Hospital. She was punished for being “non-compliant” (as her doctor labeled her) both by paramedics, who told her she “needed to be taught a lesson”, and by hospital staff who violently forced her to lie on her back during the delivery even though this caused excruciating pain in her back.
Sara Darwin is a mother from Mission, BC who gave birth to her first child in January 2009, in Abbotsford Hospital. She had forceps done on her against her choice and without her informed consent. The damage from the forceps caused her an extensive 4th degree tear, which led to pelvic floor prolapse, the formation of a fistula, incontinence, pain during sexual intercourse, and severe psychological trauma.
As a result of her trauma, Sara is now struggling with inability to become pregnant again. She is passionate about supporting other women who have experienced birth trauma, and continue to work to bring about positive change in the system so that no one else will have to experience her story.
Jessica Hall is a doula from Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, BC. She gave birth to her first child in May 2008, at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada. She went through an unnecessary induction of labour. During her labour, a nurse injected morphine into her without her consent. For an hour towards the end her childbirth, she was prevented from pushing, even though her body really needed to push the baby out, in order to “give the doctors time to deal with the shift change” and allow the nurses to catch up on paper work.
Elodie Jacquet is a dialogue facilitator at the Centre for Dialogue at Simon Fraser University. She gave birth to her first child in 2009 at BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada. The birth was traumatic and accompanied by what Elodie believes was an unnecessary Caesarean section, done without her informed consent. When she gave birth to her second child, 3 years later, Elodie’s C-section scar caused her uterus to rupture, leading to a second C-section and the surgical removal of her uterus (hysterectomy).
Charlotte Watson from Vancouver, BC, is a Transportation Planner at the City of Surrey. She gave birth to her first child at BC Women’s Hospital in 2009. Despite declining consent to her newborn having eye ointment and completing the necessary paperwork prior to the birth, a nurse still tried to administer it, ignoring both her and her husbands additional verbal refusal of consent. Charlotte also wanted to keep her placenta and followed all instructions given to her by hospital staff, yet her placenta was destroyed. BC Women’s claimed that this was the Midwife’s fault as policy was that it was Midwives’ responsibility to ensure placentas are kept, but the Provincial review into the case found that no such policy existed.
Charlotte is active in the Vancouver Birth Rally group and is working actively to raise awareness of the problems in the current childbirth system.
Kalina Christoff is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. She gave birth in November 2010, at BC Women’s Hospital, and suffered PTSD after multiple invasive obstetric procedures, including an unnecessary forceps, were performed on her without her informed consent and against her choice. Read more about her story here.
Carmen Schultz is a doula and prenatal educator who lives in Chilliwack, BC. She gave birth to her second child in December 1998 in Chilliwack General Hospital. As her baby was being born, a hospital intern held the baby’s head and pulled on it so hard that Carmen started sliding down the hospital bed. She screamed at the intern to stop, kicked her foot at him, begged him to stop, but he wouldn’t. Then she felt a huge pop and as silence fell on the room, Carmen began to feel dizzy and began hemorraging. Because the intern had pulled her baby out so forcibly, the cord had ripped off from the placenta which was still attached inside her. Carmen remembers her blood spraying out against the wall, while a nurse and a doctor joked about her potential transfer to the OR. Carmen began massaging her own uterus instinctively and with a gush, her placenta delivered. She developed a severe case of postpartum depression due to the trauma of the birth.
Have You Experienced Birth Trauma or Obstetric Violence?
There is nothing more powerful than a person’s story. By sharing your story, you are helping raise awareness about issues in maternal health care that birthing women need to know in order to avoid the same trauma you experienced. Sharing your story also shows other women who’ve had traumatic births that it is okay to speak up.
Break the Silence
Most women who have suffered obstetric violence are under enormous pressures to remain silent about what they’ve been through. These pressures come from our whole society, from the women’s doctors, and even from their own friends and relatives.The women who tell their stories here have chosen to defy these multiple pressures and break the silence.
If you have a story to tell, we would love to publish it here. There are several options for sharing your story:
- Send us your story in writing
- Give us a video or audio interview
- Fill out our birth-story form (coming soon)