After her stillborn daughter was taken away in a cold foam box, Naomi Bowden had to return to a maternity unit where she was surrounded by new mothers and their crying babies.
“Why? My baby had been so callously taken away,” Bowden told a NSW parliamentary inquiry into birth trauma, during emotional evidence on Thursday morning.
The inquiry, which has received 4000 submissions from mothers, doctors and midwives around Australia, is examining the prevalence and effects of birth trauma and whether there are sufficient protections for patients.
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Bowden said after she gave birth to Bella on November 4, 2009, she was rudely rushed to a small room to see her daughter and was told police were coming to take the newborn’s body to the coroner.
When she went to the NSW hospital for a six-week check-up, Bowden said the staff asked her: “Where’s your baby?”
“I cried hysterically, and I was told, ‘I’m sorry, you must have fallen through some cracks’.”
The hospital and the Health Care Complaints Commission dealt with her case in a cold and dismissive way, she said.
“The death of my baby was heartbreaking enough, but it was the disrespectful, the inappropriate, the appalling treatment by numerous staff at this hospital,” Bowden said.
“The complete lack of care in the hours and weeks and months after losing my daughter Bella exacerbated and compounded (it) and left me profoundly traumatised.”
The committee previously heard of research that found a third of Australian women have experienced birth trauma, which can include fearing for their lives, loss of control and pelvic floor damage.
The research from Western Sydney University found one in 10 women reported “obstetric violence”, defined as a dehumanising or abusive birth experience.
Amanda Macaulay said she presented to a hospital three times in agony before her son was stillborn in April 2014 because of a uterine rupture, a catastrophic medical emergency.
Doctors told her to take the painkiller Endone and return in five days, but she was rushed to hospital by an intensive care ambulance 36 hours later.
“When my son was stillborn, I nearly lost my own life and I required a hysterectomy,” Macaulay said.
“I feel that my concerns in the week leading up to this rupture were not listened to adequately.
“As a result, my family and I are continuing to live with the trauma associated with losing our son.”
The women said pregnant people would benefit from continuity of care, as well as long-term follow-up and counselling after a traumatic birth.
Committee member Sarah Mitchell praised the women, including another mother Jessica Holliday, for courageously sharing their stories.
“You’re amazing, incredible women and I just wanted that on the record,” she said.
The inquiry is set to run for several months.
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