When I gave birth to my daughter a little over two years ago I thought I had chosen the best care in the best facility. My husband and I took out private health insurance, including hospital cover, when we first had thoughts of starting a family. Little did we know that delivering in a private hospital with my own obstetrician would result in an interventionist approach to giving birth and that it would affect my health for years afterwards.
Like many women who have this common model of care, the magic of bringing a new life into this world was thwarted by a medicalised approach to birth. I experienced interventions I wanted to avoid. I was offered drugs I had clearly stated I didnt want (though I thankfully resisted). I was assisted by two midwives I didnt know, and who had totally different approaches to each other. I birthed in a way that made the birth process more difficult rather than easier. My ante-natal care was medical and patronising. My obstetrician didnt know my name and continuously asked me my due date. He tried to send me for tests Id already had, and missed crucial health indicators, like high blood pressure. Post-natal care was just as impersonal with various midwives offering different advice, and criticism. My baby was given a dummy and formula without my permission. My weakness after hemorrhaging wasnt addressed until two days later, when I finally received a blood transfusion. I left hospital exhausted from the birth, but even more so from the constant interruptions and noise throughout the day and night.
So, as my husband and I consider having a second child, I am determined not to have the same experience again. Continuity of care is something I didnt know would be so difficult to find in Australia. But as I research I have discovered that if I give birth in hospital, whether it be in the public or private sector, Ill be with a midwife I dont know, and who doesnt know me (or with more than one midwife if I happen to be labouring during a shift change as I was last time.) Even if I chose the option of my only accessible birth centre, I still wouldnt know the midwife.
What this has led me to is independent midwifery. The only way I can have one on one care for the pre-natal, birth and post-natal periods are if I hire my own midwife. This is far from an inexpensive option. While the baby bonus could be used on essential items like furniture and other items necessary for the new baby, my husband and I are heavily leaning towards using it for continuity of care. Theres still the possibility that if complications arise I wont be able to do this, but its looking like the best option.
It really astounds me that this is the only choice for women. Birth is the most profoundly personal and amazing experience for a woman, yet the opportunity to have continuity of care is just not there. In New Zealand, the majority of women have midwifery care, and its free. Why in Australia are the options so limited and archaic? When there is so much information out there about natural, active birth, its been a real eye opener to discover Ill really have to fight for this option whether I chose public or private care.
Sources: www.bellybelly.com.au, Really Long Link