A Wollongong midwife says she has seen hospital staff laugh at women's birth plans and "bully and coerce women" into having inductions or caesareans in a submission to the NSW birth trauma inquiry.
Among the dozens of submissions already published which name Illawarra hospitals, there were two which came from midwives who have worked in Wollongong.
A midwife of eight years spoke about a "difficult and distressing" work environment.
"Right from the start of my journey as a student midwife I have seen excessive amounts of intervention used in what should be a normal, physiological experience and the subsequent trauma to women and their families," she said.
"I saw senior midwifery and medical staff bully and coerce women into agreeing to intervention when it was against their wishes and their birth plans.
"Women would be in tears as they eventually succumbed to the suggestions and realised they wouldn't be getting the normal vaginal birth they had hoped and dreamed of.
"I saw a lack of compassion by staff and outright lies to convince women to agree to their suggestions. Staff laugh at birth plans made by women and mock their desires for a physiological birth."
The inquiry, which started in June led by Animal Justice MLC Emma Hurst, will investigate birth trauma, which research shows affects one in three people who give birth.
There were more than 4200 submissions made to the inquiry when it closed on August 15, butdue to this high volume there has been a delay in publishing most of them.
No other hospital features this many times, and there will be a public hearing in Wollongong on September 7.
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Women are 'stunned and shocked'
The Wollongong midwife included in the first published submissions, whose name has been kept private, said she did not see a single normal vaginal birth in her first seven-week rotation on the Wollongong birthing unit, with her workload instead made up of managing complications of inductions "which then resulted in vacuum extraction births, forceps births or caesareans".
She said women were told by medical staff to opt for a caesarean as it was risk free, but then "come out of these births stunned and shocked".
"They have been separated from their babies often due to recovery times," she said.
"The baby has missed crucial skin to skin and initial breastfeeding. The breastfeeding journey then becomes difficult and women resort to using formula.
"It seems that no one is held accountable for clinical decisions that may be incorrect and that cause trauma."
This midwife said she would not work in the birthing unit "unless there is a complete change of management, senior medical staff and culture change".
"Many midwives at my hospital feel the same and don't stay past their new graduate year which leaves us dangerously short staffed," she said.
Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District Chief Executive Margot Mains said she couldn't comment on individual submissions, but that the district was "committed to listening to and learning from women about their experiences of maternity care".
"This inquiry provides us with another important opportunity to hear from women who are willing to share very personal experiences to help contribute to sustainable improvements to maternity services," she said.
She said there was a "continuing service redesign" for maternity services, with the inquiry allowing the district to "use the voices of women and families to ensure that the journey we are undertaking creates a service that suits local needs and expectations".
She said "safe, collaborative and woman-centred maternity care" is the highest priority of our maternity services".
"We value our team of skilled and professional midwifery and obstetric clinicians and the contribution they make to local women and families," she said.
"Our staff work incredibly hard to deliver quality and safe services and many women who use our maternity service report a positive experience."
Ms Mains said the district took a zero-tolerance approach to allegations of bullying and had done "significant work around staff behaviours and organisational culture".
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