Rape. We’re well aware of the emotional weight carried by that powerful word, but how much more powerful is it when used in conjunction with the word “birth”? Well, it’s not hard to conjure up images of birthing mothers cowering under the shadows of balaclava-wearing men, but the reality is that the people responsible for birth rapes are medical professionals wearing surgical masks rather than balaclavas.
Birth rape is described as happening when a medical professional uses forced or unnecessary procedures in order to facilitate a birth, without the mother’s consent (or even in direct contradiction of her wishes). It could be the insertion of forceps into the woman’s birth canal, or, as shocking as it sounds- as bad as the experience of a mom who was drugged with general anaesthetic and given a C-Section without even being aware that it was being done.
The trauma of birth rape
Lack of consent. Violence against women. Even if it is happening in an operating theatre, it is just as traumatic as other forms of physical and emotional abuse. What’s shocking, however, is that the emotional abuse and trauma endured by women who have experienced birth rape often produces the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD, according to Kalina Christoff of Vancouver Birth Trauma.
This is where the alleged complicity of medical professionals comes in: The PTSD is often misdiagnosed as post-partum depression rather than traumatic stress, and is treated incorrectly. Despite mothers who have endured birth rape voicing their complaints, these complaints are dismissed as coming from someone who is suffering from post-partum depression, or merely struggling to adjust to having a new baby.
A medical professional has the upper-hand in a surgical environment. Very often his or her authority is never challenged, and, to a vulnerable woman who is giving birth, that medical professional is in control. When a woman has made considered choices about the way in which she’d like to give birth, and there is no reason why her decisions shouldn’t be respected, it still happens that medical professionals bully birthing mothers into giving birth via procedures they either don’t want, don’t need or aren’t aware of.
The common response from the medical community is that they are merely acting in the best interests of the mother- but this does not excuse procedures being performed without permission, especially when the mother is perfectly capable of providing her consent (or refusing it).
I understand that no one wants to inflict deliberate injury against a birthing mom, but it’s time that trauma as a result of birth is recognised as valid as trauma as a result of any other assault, emotional or physical, and that, wherever possible, a birthing mother’s wishes are respected during the birth process, even if it is not “convenient” for the medical professional to respect those wishes.