Australian mothers were surveyed about their views of maternity care

Australian mothers were surveyed about their views of maternity care

The joy of giving birth can be eclipsed by myriad issues faced before and in the aftermath.

Asked by The Age for their views of the maternity system, Australian mothers' criticisms ranged from excessive medical interventions to poor standards of postnatal care.

Stop pathologising birth, it is not an illness... Doctors are too quick to intervene, too impatient to wait and allow the body to do its job... 

Health reporter JULIA MEDEW examines key areas of concern for those entering the birthing experience.

To survey Australian mothers about their views of maternity care, The Age posted a series of questions on Fairfax's Essential Baby website during May.

Respondents could only participate in the survey once and were invited to add comments if they wanted to.

2792 women responded, including 2162 from Victoria. 1855 women had given birth during the previous five years, including 945 in the private system, 786 in the public system and 124 in both.

The vast majority of respondents were aged between 35 and 44 and 85 per cent had one or two children.

Caroline Smith, The Age's research and insights manager, collated and analysed the results.

KEY FINDINGS
20% of 1855 mothers who gave birth over the past five years said they had witnessed occasions when a lack of resources put a mother at risk; 14 per cent said they had seen shortages put a baby at risk.

63% of 1855 mothers who gave birth in the past five years agreed that public maternity units resembled ''herding yards'' when asked if it was an appropriate description.

Of 786 women who gave birth in the public system over the past five years, more than a third said leaving hospital too soon was a problem, 47 per cent felt their postnatal care was inadequate, and 48 per cent experienced a lack of breastfeeding support.

Of 943 women who gave birth in the private system during the past five years, 17 per cent said they were discharged too early, 39 per cent felt their postnatal care was lacking, and 45 per cent said they did not receive adequate breastfeeding support.

Of the 124 mothers who gave birth in both the public and private systems, 43 per cent thought the private system was better; 30 per cent thought the public system was better.

60% of 1855 mothers who gave birth in the past five years said providing midwives with more independence to prescribe drugs would improve the system.

Half those mothers also said the baby boom had reduced the quality of maternity services and 40 per cent believed it had reduced levels of safety for mothers and babies.

62% of 1855 mothers said Australia's 30 per cent caesarean rate was too high. A quarter thought it was mainly done for professional liability reasons and a fifth believed it was done at a mother's request.

47% of 786 mothers who gave birth in the public system during the past five years said there was a shortage of midwives, compared with 37 per cent of 943 mothers in the private system.

46% of 786 mothers who gave birth in the public system during the past five years said there was a shortage of beds, compared with 32 per cent of 943 mothers in the private system.

WHAT MOTHERS SAY
''There should be more continuity of care. Knowing your carer and trusting your carer removes the fear from childbirth and fear leads to more interventions.''

''There should be more beds and longer stays in hospital.''''There is a severe shortage of birth centre places available and in many areas it is not even an option.''

''There are so many time limits imposed on women which completely disregard the natural progression of labour in women's bodies. Doctors are too quick to intervene, too impatient to wait and allow the body to do its job.''

''The nurses were so overworked that mothers were not getting the one-on-one midwifery care that they should be.''

''Nurses are not caring for women after caesareans properly because of overcrowding. Unless you scream the loudest, you don't get looked after!''

''Women are not being given enough time to labour naturally.''

''A lack of obstetricians available after hours means junior registrars are making critical decisions, often bad ones.''

''I was not supported well enough to have a vaginal birth. I felt like they were more concerned with getting me in and out quickly so they could free up beds.''

''I waited for more than an hour for someone to help me go to the toilet.''

''I had a dreadfully long 47-hour labour because my induction was put on hold for 12 hours due to a lack of staff.''

''There are too many obstetricians performing unnecessary caesarean sections and other interventions due to fear of litigation.''

''Reopen my local maternity unit so I don't have to travel almost one hour to our nearest hospital. Travelling while in labour is not only uncomfortable, but dangerous (we only just made it to hospital before our baby was born).''

''Stop pathologising birth, it is not an illness.''

Source: The Age