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Monday, 07 September 2020

This Women’s Health Week (7-11 September 2020), Dr Fiona Martin MP, Member for Reid, is supporting the call for improved postnatal care for mothers living with the physical and psychological impacts of birth trauma.
In a speech to Parliament last week, Dr Martin drew attention to the ongoing health implications caused by birth-related trauma, stating that 1 in 3 mothers experience birth trauma.
“The National Core Maternity Indicators suggest that up to 20 per cent of first-time mothers suffer major, irreversible, physical birth trauma,” Dr Martin stated.
“This includes injuries such as perineal lacerations, anal-sphincter tears and pelvic-floor-muscle tears, which can lead to lifelong implications like urinary and faecal incontinence.”
Dr Martin added that the social and economic impacts of birth trauma are widely felt in Australia.
“Ongoing birth trauma impacts a woman's mental health, limits a woman's participation in the workforce, requires costly treatment, incurs medico-legal claims and impacts a mother-and-child bond,” Dr Martin stated.
“For many families it causes family breakdown and it also deters women from having future pregnancies.”
Dr Martin held a meeting with the Australasian Birth Trauma Association and the Empowered Motherhood Program to better understand the need for improved postnatal care.
The Australasian Birth Trauma Association has launched a petition calling for pelvic health physiotherapists in pregnancy and postnatal care to be a Medicare subsidised service.
Co-founder of the Australasian Birth Trauma Association, Ms Amy Dawes, said that the call for Medicare subsidised postnatal treatment was the result of many years of research.
“We have gathered data, analysed research and collated feedback from our community that has lead us to the belief that the first step for improving birth outcomes and post birth recovery is to involve the care of pelvic health physiotherapists,” Ms Dawes said.
Former Sydney Swifts netballer and birth trauma advocate, Ms Kimmy Smith, also attended the meeting and shared her personal experiences of birth trauma.
In 2001, Ms Smith suffered a major injury to her ankle, tearing 3 ligaments and rupturing the joint capsule. She says that she was treated round the clock by a team of physiotherapists.
“I was given the best treatment with the latest technology,” Ms Smith said.
“Fast forward to 2013, after I had given birth to my first daughter. I was in hospital, feeling incredibly distressed because it felt like my insides were falling out. I was sent home from hospital and told that everything looked normal! One month later, I was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse.”
Ms Smith said that the contrast in her two experiences highlighted the gaps in postnatal care.
“As a professional athlete, I was given the best of the best. As a birthing mother, I was sent home and told my injuries looked normal.”
Ms Smith has now teamed up with Ms Lyz Evans, a Women’s Health Physiotherapist, and they have together founded the Empowered Motherhood Program.
“As a women's health physiotherapist I have witnessed far too many times the devastating impacts that can occur from a birth,” Ms Evans stated.

“What often starts as a small pelvic floor issue, goes on to impact a woman in a myriad of ways. Her confidence is lost as she leaks or can't function like she needs to. It is time we treat pregnant and postnatal women with respect and give their bodies the level of care they need and deserve through pregnancy and the entire first year of motherhood.”
In her speech before Parliament, Dr Martin called for improved access to imaging services capable of diagnosing birth trauma, with an appropriate referral pathway.
“While pregnant women can access essential Medicare subsidised treatment during pregnancy and labour, postnatal care for women is limited,” Dr Martin stated.
“We need to look at ways to better support birthing mothers. When we do this we support women's health, we support parents and families and we support women's participation in the workforce.”

Media contact
Vanessa Papastavros | 02 9715 7444 |