The MP who will lead the parliamentary inquiry into NSW's rising rate of birth trauma has commended women who have already shared their stories, as they will pave the way for others to open up about the widespread issue.
Animal Justice League upper house MP Emma Hurst attended the birth trauma awareness event held by advocacy group Better Births Illawarra on Wednesday, joining experts and women who have experienced birth trauma.
"I'm inspired by the women who are brave enough to come forward and give their story - it's not easy, but it will allow other women to realise that what happened to them during birth was not okay," she said, at the University of Wollongong event.
"I've heard about women screaming and crying out for pain relief and having it refused.
"I've heard about women having their legs in stirrups and having large numbers of students suddenly invited in without their permission, or about mothers being mocked by healthcare workers when they have asked for assistance to breastfeed their newborn baby.
"All these stories help other women to come forward - there may be women who feel like it was just them experiencing this, but we are looking at statistics that say one in three women have experienced birth trauma."
Read more of our stories on the issue
- The horror birth that left a Calderwood mum unable to bond with her child
- 'I gave birth to my daughter twice': traumatised Illawarra mothers speak up
- Lis will never get over the trauma of her first birth in Wollongong Hospital
- Increase in medical interventions linked to birth trauma, Wollongong midwife says
Given how common the issue is, Ms Hurst said she was not surprised by the huge response so far to the inquiry - but was "baffled" that the issue had not been widely investigated by parliament before.
"Ever since the inquiry was announced, even before submissions opened I was getting emails from women who wanted to give their story," she said.
"That signals to me that this is a discussion that's really long overdue, it should have happened years ago."
Ms Hurst said she had previously spoken to MPs and ministers about birth trauma, but that they had said they were not aware of it.
This will put the issue out there and nobody can really turn a blind eye to this anymore.- Emma Hurst
"It has baffled me that I'm the first MP that's pushed this issue, given it's such an enormous issue," she said.
"This will put the issue out there and nobody can really turn a blind eye to this anymore."
Also attending was Bega MP and Parliamentary Secretary for Heath and Regional Health, Dr Michael Holland, who shared some of his experiences working as an obstetrician and doctor for older women.
"Back home in Moruya I'm known as the baby doctor, but 90 per cent of my job was for women whose baby times were over but their experiences with birth and the consequences of that lives with them for the rest of their lives," he said.
"We have to acknowledge the need to improve our care for women, not only during pregnancy but even before they conceive, through pregnancy, during labour, during birth and postnatally."
Representing Health Minster Ryan Park - who helped put together the terms of reference for the inquiry - Mr Holland said it was vital the health system recognised birth trauma.
He said women must be supported to have continuity of care with GPs, midwives and accessible education and information.
"We must recognise the trauma, we have to commit the reducing the risk, we have to provide adequate postnatal briefing and appropriate referrals," he said.
"And for health carers, it's important to recognise that it's not necessarily what we are doing, it's how we are doing it."
Submissions to the inquiry close on August 11, and Ms Hurst said people were able to make theirs confidential.
"We want to hear from health care workers, we want to hear from individual women because those stories will make up the evidence for our recommendations," she said.
"The only way we can look into specific issues, is if people put pen to paper and put in a submission."
For help contact:
- Lifeline 13 11 14 (24/7) or text 0477 13 11 14.
- Mental Health Line 1800 011 511.
- PANDA National Helpline (Monday to Saturday) 1300 726 306 or website. PANDA's National Perinatal Mental Health Helpline is Australia's only free national helpline for people affected by changes to their mental health and emotional wellbeing during the perinatal period.