A midwife told Sam to have Panadol for ‘intense backpain’. Her baby had to be resuscitated

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jun15,2024
Sam Hall said she wasn’t taken seriously during a traumatic birth to her son Koah in 2022.
The 35-year-old First Nations woman said she had “a lot of issues” with her midwives and doctors from the beginning of her pregnancy.
It was around 7pm on 5 March and Sam knew something was wrong when she felt intense pain in her back.
Nonetheless, Sam waited until around 1 or 2am before calling her midwife, as she feared she would be annoyed.

“So, I tried to call my midwife to see if I could at least just go in and get checked and get some pain relief,” Sam said, “And she told me to just have some Panadol and have a shower and go to bed and wait until the morning”.

A woman wearing a light green singlet and a face mask puts her hand on the stomach of a baby surrounded by medical equipment.

Sam seeing her baby Koah for the first time, a day after giving birth. Credit: SBS/Supplied

Sam said she called for help again around 8am the next day as her pain had persisted. She was finally told to come to the hospital.

But she said her midwife — who was partnered with an external birth program for Aboriginal women in Queensland — was annoyed when she arrived ahead of her induction, which was scheduled for the evening.

“By the time we got in there, she even said to me, ‘Oh, you couldn’t have just held out and waited’,” Sam said.

It was a hospital student midwife who noticed her baby was in distress at 10am on 6 March, before Sam gave birth eight hours later.
Koah wasn’t breathing when he was born and had to be resuscitated after he had a seizure. He was then transferred to a bigger hospital in Brisbane for special care.
Sam was emotional as she described not being able to hold her son for four days after he was born.
“That was one of my biggest fears,” Sam said, “I had even gone to the head of obstetrics at my hospital and said ‘I don’t want him to be transferred away from me and not be able to go with him'”.

“It’s such an ingrained thing as an Indigenous woman, that mothers fear having a child taken away”.

A NSW birth trauma inquiry committee handed down forty-three recommendations, following a report released today.
The inquiry received submissions from 4,000 people, including patients, doctors, midwives, and experts from across Australia.
Recommendations included that all women have access to continuity of care models, which were identified as the ‘gold standard’ of care.

The report also recommended comprehensive antenatal education, reviewing laws and training around informed consent, adopting trauma-informed care practices, and improving mental health support and postpartum services.

A woman with black-rimmed glasses stands in front of several microphones with News Outlet logos on them

Dr Hazel Keedle says the inquiry’s recommendations echo many of the findings from the Birth Experience Study. Credit: SBS

Dr Hazel Keedle and her colleagues conducted the largest Australian study into birth trauma, and one of the largest in the world in 2021 — known as the Birth Experience Study.

One in three women were found to have experienced birth trauma, and one in 10 had suffered obstetric violence.
Speaking outside NSW parliament on Wednesday, Dr Keedle said the inquiry’s recommendations echo the findings from this study.
“Women want culturally sensitive trauma-informed continuity of care led by a midwife,” Dr Keedle said, “I strongly recommend that the New South Wales government appoints a chief midwife and expands access to midwifery group practice, and privately practising midwives.”
Jessica Santos shared three birth stories outside of NSW parliament, highlighting the difference between her two traumatic hospital birth experiences in NSW, and her home birth just five days ago to her son Kya.
Jessica said she most recently chose a home birth because she could no longer trust the hospital system, describing her first birth in hospital.
“So I ended up giving birth in the maternity ward with an unknown midwife, [and] to be honest, I didn’t feel like she was invested in my labour,” Jessica said.

“I felt like I was an inconvenience”.

A woman wearing a black dress sits behind a microphone.

Founder and CEO of Australasian Birth Trauma Association Amy Dawes said Australia should mirror the United Kingdom in acknowledging the economic burden of birth trauma, and push to consider recommendations at a national level. Credit: SBS/Supplied

Amy Dawes is founder and CEO of the Australasian Birth Trauma Association, which made a submission to the inquiry.

She welcomed many of the recommendations.
“Of course [trauma] is not always preventable, but there are many aspects that can prevent it, which is trauma-informed care, and ensuring that women can really get informed consent during birth as well,” Dawes said.
The federal budget allocated more than $60 million towards improving maternity care, but Dawes said she was disappointed to see a lack of direct funding towards birth trauma.

“I think it’s really important to also acknowledge the fact that the recent budget showed some focus on women’s health, but birth trauma still remains a hidden issue in federal health policy,” Dawes said.

According to the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council of NSW, which also made a submission to the inquiry, only 1.3 per cent of midwives are Indigenous Australian, while First Nations people make up 3 per cent of the population.
Sam’s midwives partnered with an Aboriginal midwife program, which she said aimed to assist Indigenous families from her area.
Sam said she is unsure which of the midwives were Indigenous Australian but would certainly like to see more First Nations midwives.
“I had a student midwife for a little while there who was Indigenous and she made me feel better than any of the other midwives I sort of had to deal with,” Sam said.

“Maybe because she understood more or didn’t make me feel silly if I had concerns, which is how the other midwives made me feel.”

A woman in a green shirt cuddles a baby with a man with a grey shirt standing behind her.

Sam says she found the inquiry’s recommendations promising, particularly those around cultural training and trauma-informed care for First Nations mothers. Credit: SBS/Supplied

She said even following her birth she was scared to raise concerns with her primary midwives.

“I kept thinking they’re just going to brush it off,” Sam said, “My son nearly died because I wasn’t taken seriously. So [there’s] still a lot of anger with it all.”
Sam says she found the report’s recommendations promising, including those around attaching post-natal debriefing clinics to hospitals, as well as an increase in Medicare rebates for psychology appointments.
But she said a highlight was recommendations around cultural training and trauma-informed care for First Nations mothers.
“I think it’s that comfort of having someone there who understands, and I know a lot of the issues I had was a lot of intergenerational trauma with our babies being taken,” Sam said.
“So I think it’s the comfort of having other Indigenous women there who understand that side of things”.

For more stories on this topic and other women’s health issues, stay tuned for a new podcast series by SBS News called ‘Hysterical’ set to be released in July.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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