Birth Trauma Claims: Postnatal depression and PTSD following Childbirth

In 2023, NSW Parliament has recognised the high prevalence of birth trauma suffered by childbearing women with the formation of an Upper House Committee Inquiry. Now described as the ‘Me too movement of childbirth”,[1] more than 4000 submissions were made by women who have come together to recognise their traumatoc birth experiences.

Some of the most common testimonies have included:

  • Not being provided with accurate information including risks and possible complications prior to giving consent
  • Failing to receive adequate pain relief or being denied when requested
  • Women’s concerns ignored by health practitioners (midwives and obstetricians)

“During the forceps I was physically restrained, my arms were held down and my legs were held down and forced apart while I lay on the bed. I screamed STOP STOP due to the immense pain of the forceps going into my vagina and pulling out my baby.… I was diagnosed with PTSD related to birth trauma from this experience.”

– Anonymous submission to the Inquiry into Birth Trauma
Should I pursue a claim? 

In Australia, 1 in 3 women [2] are impacted by birth trauma.

If you did not experience physical harm in childbirth but have ongoing psychological trauma or mental health illness as a result and these testimonies resonate with your story, a claim in medical negligence may be available to you.

To establish an action in negligence we will request your personal medical records, which will be reviewed by specialist medical negligence solicitors and expert medical advice to determine whether the care you received failed to meet the standard of reasonable care causing harm to you or your baby.

Postnatal Depression (PND)  

Many women will suffer from ‘baby blues’ in following weeks after giving birth causing mothers to feel emotional, anxious and tearful. However, PND lasts longer and affects a mother’s ability to bond and cope with their new baby.

Even when no physical injury occurs, if a woman feels like she has no control in her birth experience, this can have long term effects on the mother and her family.

Postnatal Post – Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

PTSD is a psychological condition which causes a person to relieve a traumatic event through vivid flashbacks and nightmares. Women suffering PTSD following childbirth are likely to experience flashbacks from their labour and avoid situations which remind them of that experience.

Consequences of Postnatal PTSD:

  • Difficulties bonding with the baby.
  • Troubles establishing breastfeeding.
  • Feeling like a failure
  • Fear of pregnancy and childbirth

Causes of Birth Trauma:

  • Mode of delivery: Precipitous (quick), medicalised, unplanned, or emergency deliveries can all increased the risk of birth trauma.
  • Labour and postnatal complications which put the mother or baby’s life at risk.
  • Lack of labour support by clinicians
  • Women who feel they had lost control in their birth.

“I got bullied into a forceps delivery without consent… the icing on the cake has been the daily flashbacks for two years. The 15K a year medical and psychiatric costs” – Anonymous submission to the Inquiry into Birth Trauma

Birth Debriefing and Seek Help 

Following a traumatic birth, it is crucial that a woman and her partner are given an appropriate clinical debrief and an opportunity to answer any questions they might have.

There are multiple supports for women struggling in the postnatal period include: COPE, PANDA National Helpline and Gidget House. Ask your GP for a referral, or alternatively follow up with a private psychologist.

Reach out to our team at Stern Law, offering a unique and individualised understanding of the sensitive nature of medical negligence claims. We will listen with empathy and provide guidance through the complex claims process.

Please call us on (02) 9387 1399 or email us at [email protected]

We look forward to sharing this journey with you.

Stern Law is led by Principal Solicitor, Terry Stern, one of the most experienced medical negligence lawyers in NSW with over 35 years’ experience in the field and an Accredited Specialist in Personal injury Law.  Some of his landmark cases include:

Our Commitment: Stern Law is dedicated to a team approach, drawing on a variety of skills and backgrounds in medical negligence law to get our clients the best results. 

At Stern Law, we hold a strong interest in birth injury claims, believing that women deserve the right to compensation, following childbirth trauma. 

Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended only to provide a summary and general overview of matters of interest. It does not constitute medical or legal advice and should not be relied on as such.

[1] ABC NEWS ‘NSW Birth Trauma Inquiry’ (September 2023)
[2] Ibid.
[3] Centre of Perinatal Excellence ‘Postnatal Depression’

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