Ban forceps from birth says traumatised Brisbane mum

Kinderling News & Features

Brisbane mother Amy Dawes was so traumatised by the forceps delivery of her first child, she wants them banned.

Now a mother-of-two, Amy said doctors forced her to choose between a forceps and caesarean delivery after a long and painful first labour.

"I wanted my baby to have the best start to life and I really believed a vaginal birth would be the way to do that. I knew nothing of the risks of forceps but all the risks of a caesarean," she told Yahoo News.

Amy claims the decision has had devastating impact on her ability to lead a “normal life”.

Forceps had a devastating impact on Amy’s wellbeing

Post-birth, Amy was left with severe vaginal tearing and a third-degree perineal tear.  She spent five days on a catheter in hospital but says the long-term effects of the forceps delivery has affected her most.

"I didn’t realise the extent of the injuries. About 16 months post-partum, I sustained a prolapse – a bilateral evulsion where the pelvic floor muscle was torn off the bone, leaving little structural support for other organs, bladder and uterus.

"I was told to avoid lifting my baby. I was told that I would no longer be doing sports which was a massive part of life. It was debilitating. I felt old before my time. It had completely altered my perspective on life," she said.

How common is forceps use?

Forceps are used in approximately one in 13 Australian births; and according to a report by the ABC, use has steadily increased as Australian mothers become older and heavier.

Rates in Queensland stand at 3%, in Victoria it sits at 8%, while  Sydney’s Royal Women’s Randwick and North Shore hospital have the highest rates with forceps used in 10-11% of all births.

Australian medical community are divided on forceps

President of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) Dr Michael Gannon, an obstetrician, told the ABC he disagrees with the forceps ban.

 "[Forceps] are a very useful instrument where maternal effort or co-operation might not be there after a long and difficult labour. They were first used about 400 years ago and have saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of women and babies during childbirth."

Dr Gannon also described the way women are taking legal action against hospitals with regard to traumatic birth experiences as “ludicrous":

“Area health services and state health departments and hospital managers are telling obstetricians to reduce their caesarean section rate for some ideological purpose," Dr Gannon said.

Hans Peter Dietz, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Sydney Medical School, takes a more empathic view, telling the ABC he has seen the aftermath of a traumatic birth while conducting surgical trials on women with damage to their pelvic floor or anal sphincter.

"Many obstetricians are simply not aware of how much damage is done by forceps," Professor Dietz said. "Forceps are a great instrument to use for the obstetrician but it's very much at the cost of the woman and sometimes the baby."

Amy has co-founded birth trauma support group

Amy Dawson’s birth experience inspired her to help other women. She co-founded the Australasian Birth Trauma Association support group to empower women to understand and cope with the long-term risks of a birth that doesn’t go to plan.

"My basic way of life is completely altered. You just feel completely broken and scared of intimacy. I can’t run after my child, I feel like I have a life with limitations that I never thought imagined.”

"I didn’t know the risk. Many women have no idea. The risk of this happening is greatly increased with forceps," she said.