A License to Rape

by Birth Without Fear on December 9, 2010

*I understand there are good doctors and midwives. To those that listen to and respect women, thank you. This blog post is about the many that do not.

Painful, traumatic childbirth, birth rapeRape? A doctor?  A midwife? Yes. Birth Rape to be more exact. I remember the first time I read about birth rape. At first it is shocking to see birth and rape in the same sentence. To be honest, I never thought I would use the term, but it happens and I am not going to pretend it doesn’t. I’ve had enough.

There are many mamas on our BWF Facebook page now. It’s a wonderful community of women (and some men). We often get updates that a BWF mom has birthed and celebrate in their empowering experiences. They may have birthed at home, in the hospital, had a vaginal birth or c-section. It doesn’t matter as long as they felt they made educated choices on what was best for them and their baby and that those choices were THEIRS to make.

This week however, one mama posted something a little different when announcing the arrival of her sweet son. She labored at home, then when she felt she needed to, went to the hospital. She was given the help she needed and continued to labor beautifully. When she was 9 centimeters, that changed.

“The doctor said he wanted to check the baby’s position and the pressure of my pushing. He had been great so far so I let him. While inside of me, he decided to manually dilate the last lip of my cervix. He HURT me. I had bright red bleeding and he BROKE my spirit. I ended up having a c-section.”

We had a discussion about this on our FB page and other women commented about their experiences. Here are a few.

“My mother had just birthed her 6th child (so it’s not like she was new to the game) and her 20 something yr old Dr. decided that her placenta wasn’t delivering fast enough for him to get to his flying lesson. Against my mother’s (loud!) protests, he reached in and yanked it out himself. He scarred her uterus so badly that she had miscarriages for 4 years.”

“It sure felt like rape to me. Of course no one else at that time would have ever agreed. When I compared my c-section and what led up to it to rape, my husband finally understood how horrible it was for me. Do people honestly think if the trauma women incur was no big deal, that we would have such a huge number of women with PPD and PTSD?”

“My medwife started stretching my cervix after 30 something hours of intense back labor. She did not ask my permission or even warn me. The pain of that was even worse than my contractions (I have a very sensitive cervix). When I begged her to stop she kept going, told me to trust her, and that I would be glad she did this. Well what did I do? I had a total complete meltdown and asked for an epidural, which I’m sure to this day is the reason I ended up with a c-section. I’ll never be able to reconcile my decision to get the epidural, but damnit, had she not violated my rights to have my body untouched, I never would have lost it like that.”

In what other situation would one human being put their hand (or instrument) in a woman’s vagina and do whatever they want and get away with it? Even if a woman consents, if it hurts her, if something is done she does not want or she is BEGGING them to stop, it is not OK. Ever. This is sexual abuse. This is birth rape. No man or woman should ever have their body violated in such a way. No doctor or midwife should feel they have the license to do it. No one should say it does not happen and tell women to get over it.

These things lead to traumatic experiences, post partum depression and post traumatic stress disorder. The amount of women with PPD and PTSD is much higher than realized. It is not hormones, it is trauma. It is abuse. It is rape. The trauma many women experience with their births is sickening and a lot women don’t even realize it. Why is this? The AMA, ACOG and media have made it ‘normal’. So many women have experienced it and told that this is just how birth is. Suck it up.

Many doctors set women up for failure. Whether they intentionally do it or not, depends on the doctor.  The road to interventions and abuse is like a tornado. You can get caught up in it, thrown around like a rag doll, and before you know it you are abused and traumatized. I recently expressed my thoughts on this while watching 16 and Pregnant.

Inducing a woman because baby is ‘too big’, it is her due date, there is high or low fluids, baby is too small, baby is breech, and many other reasons doctors come up with is unethical and immoral. If there is a TRUE medical emergency to intervene, that is one thing, but the amount of times that is actually the case is slim.

Here is another BWF mama’s story:

My first baby was “due” June 23rd. On the 21st I had an appointment. My doctor stripped my membranes and told me she scheduled my induction for the following week. (No reason given). She told me to go home, have sex, walk and hopefully labor would start. I had some contractions, but nothing really. I started to wonder if I was in labor, so I went to the hospital. I was told my babies FHT were dropping and that they were keeping me over night. I stayed the night to be told in the AM that the doctor was going to “get this show on the road”. They broke my bag of waters and started pit. The nurse said “Dr. hopes to have this baby here by 5″. She knew I wanted natural (back then I didn’t associate pit and the AROM as unnatural, I was “young and dumb”).

I labored with pit naturally (had an amazing nurse). I was at a 4 and was told that I couldn’t relax enough and my doctor wanted me to have Nubane to help. They told me Nubane makes you feel like you have had a few drinks and won’t get to your baby. I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow. I had no control and that’s when the contractions were terrible! Dr. came at this point while I was drunk on drugs and could barely speak to do and exam. During the exam she put in an internal monitor ( I about came off the bed). I asked her what she was doing. “I am putting in the internal monitor”, she yelled. Then she looked at the monitor, said my contractions weren’t strong enough, and turned the dial a few clicks (it should be a click every 30-60 min). I had the most excruciating contraction. She looked at me and said “Now either you can have an epidural now or you can have one in an hour when I take your baby by c-section.

It was 3:30 at this point. I started crying. She wanted to know why I was crying. (Gee I don’t know…becuase you just said the 2 things I am absolutely terrified of in one sentence). I did the epidural. She came in at 4 and told me she wouldn’t be delivering my baby because she had prior obligations. My daughter was born at 9:03 that night. I was left feeling as though there was something wrong with my body. I asked her what went wrong and her response was, “some women just don’t labor well and you needed help”. Obviously, I have learned my body works just fine, thank you, and I am now a childbirth educator and hope to change the birthing world!

~Melissa Holstrom

Yes, women have to be responsible for educating themselves and speaking up. However, they are competing with a fear based model of care. They are being lied to. They are told their babies are in danger, that drugs won’t effect them or the baby and the next thing they know they are exhausted, mentally wore down, and their spirits broken. They become vulnerable and that is when interventions and abuse can easily happen. It happens to the most educated and strongest of women. It happened to me.

The thing is, birthing women are the ones who have to change this. It will not happen any other way.

What can you do?

  • Report any abuse. I know it is a vulnerable and emotional time, but we have to speak up.
  • Find a care provider that will listen to you and respect you. If you see any red flags and if your gut gives you the slightest uneasy feeling, switch providers ASAP. It is never too late.
  • Birth in a place you feel completely comfortable and empowered to make any choices for you and your baby.
  • Make sure your spouse is completely supportive and on board with your wishes.
  • Hire a doula and make it clear that you want them to speak…not for you, but to you (reminding you what you want, that you have a choice or to simply ask that you may have some privacy to make a decision). When you are exhausted and fear is being put on you, this will be needed!
  • Do not start down the winding path of interventions. No unnecessary ultrasounds, cervical exams, etc.

Epowering, peaceful water birthDon’t ever worry about hurting someone else’s feelings. Don’t ever give in to anything you don’t want. Once you do, you make yourself the victim. There is a fine line between a traumatic birth and an empowering one. Don’t give your power away.

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{ 280 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessi January 31, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I can’t stop crying. Birth rape is the only way to explain what happened to me while laboring in the hosipital. I was only 18 and the nurse I was assigned to, not much older than me. I trusted her, in a sea of people looking down at me for my age, she treated me differently. She became my best friend in labor and my husband and I enjoyed her company. Then she went to check and see how dilated I was except it hurt worse than any of the other cervical exams. I was screaming and crying and grabbing for my husband in pain. He asked her what she was doing and she responded, “I’m trying to break her water with my hands, only doctors are allowed to use the amnio hooks.” I was devastated, I didn’t even want my water broken, she never told me what her plan was. The rape I experienced went on to causing me unbearable contractions which resulted in an epidural that I didn’t want and then an episiotomy. I feel very raped and robbed of an experience that I so desperately wanted.

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mandy May 18, 2013 at 6:45 pm

Yes you are right that only doctors are allowed to use the hooks, but if you had never had a baby before you wouldn’t know that your water breaking makes you have harsher contractions. Miy first two children I had totally natural with no epidural, no pain medication, and no one had to break my water, they broke on their own. The contractions just get worse when your water breaks. I do not validate what some doctors, nurses, or midwifes do, because I know that some are not good at their jobs and need to be reported, but I just thought I would let you know that. She should have just let your water break on its own, because you wouldn’t have had to have the pain of her trying to do it. I did have my water broke with my third child and it does hurt. He also had a heart problem, which was why they had to do the c-section, because he wouldn’t have survived natural birth. I had one more after him and I planned to try natural again, but my liver was failing so I had another c-section with her, but I do not feel that any of them made out like it wasn’t my choice. They told me what might happen or might not happen and I made my decisions myself. I feel for those of you who didn’t have a choice over your birth. I look at my experiences as some bad and some good. I am just glad I have four beautiful and now all healthy babies. My son had heart surgery and is doing great. I think his heart surgery was more traumatic than his birth. Again, I am very sorry about your experience and hope that your child is doing good now.

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Alex February 20, 2012 at 11:44 pm

I read so much and knew just what I wanted and still…

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Nicole March 15, 2012 at 7:42 pm

I hope so much that mother’s this happens to report it. It literally makes me so furious I shake. No one should TOUCH your body unless you give them permission. No one should MAKE you do anything. This is illegal (not to mention horrible) and it is unbelievable that there are still practitioners getting away with it.

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Christine March 15, 2012 at 8:02 pm

3 years ago I was 19 and pregnant so I trusted all these “adult dr” to do the right thing. I went in to the hospital because my preeclampsia was really bad the first nurse gave me cervadil. Next morning a new nurse comes to remove it and I was screaming bloody murder turned out the nurse the night before had put it in wrong. They gave me another round of cervadil and then the next day started me on pitocian, then broke my water, then gave me an epidural. The epidural only numbed one side of me so the Dr comes back in and just basically shoots me up with an epidural. I couldn’t feel anything! No contractions nothing! I was so devistated I wanted to be able to feel when I needed to push! At this point I was already crushed and just didn’t want to give birth
Anymore. Then out of nowhere I see scissors I start begging them not to cut me just let me do this on my own. I hear snip snip
Snip and start having a panic attack. My spirits were
Broken I felt like I had been robbed of labor. They throw my baby boy on me and I didn’t even want to hold him. No tears, nothing that I expected to happen when I saw the love of my life didn’t happen.
I blame those doc and nurses till this day I was robbed of the best day of my life! It took me almost a year to get my post partum depression under control and I love my little 3 year old
More then anything in this world.

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Anne April 14, 2012 at 12:41 pm

I’m sorry you went through this. I’m a RN. Sometimes I feel like I have to apologize for my profession. They didn’t rob you of your brain. You know it was wrong and it was. Happy for you that you have a little 3 year-old. They are so fun!

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janel patin May 18, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I couldnt feel my contractions either, when it came time to push id watch the monitor when to push with my contrations, the doctor would tell me to push at the wrong time and i would yell hold on, and push with my next contraction i completly ignored the doctor, i didnt want to tear and because of that i only got one stitch. and i did report a nurse. i had a bad labor and after especially after labor i was treated horribly. lead me to have severe ppd ppa.

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Kimber from Stilettos In The Mud March 15, 2012 at 9:24 pm

I had a doctor “Reem” my cervix even though I specifically stated on my birthing plan I did not want it done. HE stated he read it on there but it was his “policy” to do so irregardless of a woman’s wishes! I am so glad you have written about this!! :)

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jessica March 25, 2013 at 12:33 pm

I was halfway through my third pregnancy when I asked my very cool doctor if I should write my birth plan out? She told me that I could but that the hospital has their objectives and that once I’m in the hospital even she is under their ruling so to speak. She added that if I am in pain, they’ll try to fix that despite any plan I write out, etc.
I left, looked up a midwife, (there were three in my area) and thank goodness I found the right one. She was nervous to take me on so late in the pregnancy, but because it was my third baby, and I’d never had a problem with pregnancy/delivery, she took me on as a woman she would help through labor. It was what I had wanted, and more and went beautifully.

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Julie March 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm

I had a wonderful doctor, I never felt pressured he always sat patiently to answer every question I had, and I had lots. He explained every option about everything to me and let me decide and even when I developed a bad case of preeclampsia he tried to let me labor natural…when my blood pressure got so high I was in danger of convulsing he then started ne on pit. Other than that I was drug free!

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Crystal Thompson March 16, 2012 at 2:23 am

Mine was not so intrusive, but at my last OB appt with my son almost 10 years ago they did a membrane sweep without telling me. I felt so violated and was literally in shock. Later I was pissed because I had not been asked. With the next two children combined I may have had 5 vaginal exams. I no longer trust anyone down there and have issues with hands down there even with my partner now :( It changed my way of life and scarred me. I am just thankful that I have the knowledge now to protect myself, and that the following birth had such a amazing midwife to assist me in gaining that knowledge and power to take back my rights. I still have problems as a result but in pregnancy and birth I know I am the one in control.
This time around I am at 20 weeks and have not had even one check.. I MIGHT have one if I go overdue but dont really plan on it. I’m ok with that.

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EvolutionDoula March 16, 2012 at 4:36 am

A labour I was present at as a doula recently was beautiful. Mum went into hospital for final appointment (4days past EDD – she said no induction without good cause) and blood pressure was high and she’d been having head aches for a few days, (I suggested she seek medical advice). With her permission she was induced, only had a few, relatively unpainful, exams and was on a monitor for a little while, but she was happy. The dr was fantastic at explaining what was going on, and after about 15 minutes of chatting about the pros and cons of breaking the waters, mum agreed to it. So he did, labour went pretty quick afterwards.
When we debriefed a few weeks later she said if she had the option she wouldn’t do anything differently, she felt empowered the whole time and that she was the one making the decisions.
I asked mums permission to share this story because, without intending to hurt anyones feelings, there are good drs out there who are kind and considerate and do their jobs. But also because as I read this post I was absolutely shocked. I feel so gutted for these strong independent mummas who have been abused in this way.
Another eye opening post, thank-you BWF.

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Mary March 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Rape was how i felt after my birth experience but i never said it out loud, thinking that people would tell me to not be ridiculous – I didnt know other people also felt like this. Thank you so much for this post. The doctor started trying to turn my baby without asking…he had his fingers inside me and was basically hitting my stomach with his other hand, so hard i was screaming. And no it didnt work and yes it left me feeling totally violated to the point that i still cant allow my partner to touch me with his hands there. After lots of unneccessary interventions and lots of screaming, they cut my baby out of me, took her away and didnt let me see her until she was 4 hours old. It has taken me a long time to come to terms with this. Thank you for making people aware that this is not how it has to be. I pray for peaceful births for all mothers and that my following births will help me to heal from my past trauma.

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Loraine March 21, 2012 at 10:27 pm

It has taken me 3 months to be able to comment on this. I read, I researched, I prepared myself the best I could and still it happened to me. Although, I am beginning to heal my birth is still very painful. I cannot begin to thank Mrs BWF for the support and encouragement she has provided me not only when I was pregnant but in my healing process <3<3

Below is a part of my birth story :(

Time is very blurry to me but sometime after that she with absolutely NO warning or explanation the nurse shoved her hand in me. Again, I was having a contraction and it was completely obvious by my screaming and it is not like she couldnt have looked at the machine. I was screaming and yelling, begging her to stop but yet she wouldn't. My husband yelled at her so she pulled her hand out but the damage was already done.

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Mary Ann Watson May 1, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Reading these posts takes me back to my first birth. My beautiful daughter was born in 1975. I saw the doctor that my mother-in-law saw. I knew nothing about him nor his partner. I saw the partner first and at my first visit he told me I would probably need a cesarean because my vaginal shaft was so long. Fast forward to 36 weeks. Begin vaginal exams for dilation. (There had been no ultrasounds because they were not used commonly at that point.) A vaginal exam was done every week at my visit. I had taken Lamaze classes and read a lot. I thought I knew what I needed to know. Nope. On my due date, I woke up in labor. (I have no idea if my membranes were stripped.) Went to the hospital and was 2 cm dilated. Was given an IV with pitocin. I later learned that my physician had 4 hysterectomies scheduled that morning. His plan was to deliver me between the 3rd and 4th surgery. To his credit, I was not quite ready then so he waited until after the 4th surgery. At that time, I was wheeled to the ‘delivery room’ where I was slashed open with an episiotomy down to my rectum and around on both sides. Forceps were inserted and he pulled me down the table and the table across the floor until he finally propped his foot on the table and pulled with all his weight, pulling out my sweet little baby. He sewed me up and I was sent to a ‘recovery’ room that was actually a supply closet where I had no call button. My husband had accompanied the baby to the nursery, came back briefly to see me and stepped out to get some lunch. I did not see a nurse while he was gone. By the time he got back, I was writhing in agony from the pain from the episiotomy and forceps. He had to beg a nurse to come to me and she would give me no medication for pain until I was taken up to the floor. I was frantic by the time I reached the floor and still received no medication for about an hour. I was determined to nurse my baby although I could hardly bear this ongoing pain. Getting up was agony. The first time I was gotten up to urinate, I passed out. In stead of allowing me to go ahead and urinate, I was put back to bed. When I called the nurses again to help me, they waited so long that I was unable to urinate and required an indwelling catheter for 24 hours. The removal of the catheter was done poorly and that further traumatized the area. I could not sit on the sitz bath that went on the toilet. Neither could I get up and walk to the nursery to see the baby without bending over. The nurses made fun of me and said I had ‘just had a baby’ and to stop pampering myself. (It was later found that I had a pilonoidal cyst that had swollen to the size of a lemon and made sitting nearly impossible.) After yet more pain from the lancing of the cyst, I was in bed for about two weeks for the cyst to heal. I was instructed to wait four weeks before beginning to have sex. At four weeks, there was not the remotest possibility that I could do that. A full year was required to get back to some semblance of normal. I did successfully breastfeed my daughter for 2 1/2 years as I attended LaLeche League and also was supported by a breastfeeding supportive pediatrician. My second sweet baby was born in a birthing center inside a hospital and that went exceptionally well. I was attended by a nurse midwife who then helped train me and remains my friend to this day. However, I had a little pain medication and have beat myself up repeatedly for giving up and taking something. Finally, my precious son and two more daughters were born at home. When my son came (all 10 pounds and 23 1/2 inches of him) I finally began to heal from what I know now was my birth rape. To let you know, I often set my standards so high that it is impossible to achieve them, but I wish I had read better things and been more prepared with baby #1. Now I have many grandbabies, most of which I have caught and the more I learn, the more beautiful, peaceful and loving the births become. Writing this has brought back those same feelings of panic, remorse, sorrow, and regret that I fell short.

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Laura Merwin May 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm

Bless you for sharing… I was born in 1975. My mother was also treated dismissively, disrespectfully and abusively. Women were most commonly not listened to, let alone consulted, regarding birth in 1975. My mother’s doctor’s actions caused my brain to hemorrhage, and my mother was never taught about breastfeeding. It wasn’t until my mother watched me birthing my daughter and witnessed the breastfeeding of her grandchildren that she knew that she’d been cheated and mistreated.

I hope you know how strong you were, even amidst the acceptance expected of women at that time, just to KNOW that the experience you had was not right. To CHANGE the things you did, in your life and your children’s lives, makes you a birth hero in my eyes! <3

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Becky Castle Miller August 29, 2013 at 2:51 pm

You did NOT fall short. You are an amazing mother.

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Elizabeth May 23, 2012 at 12:08 am

I had done everything right. I had a doula, birth plan signed off by my Dr, toured the hospital, you name it. I had PROM (naturally and randomly), I waited 20 hours before going to the hospital, and would have waited longer if I wasnt gbs possitive. When I got to the hospital to get abx , planning on leaving after with a heplock and laboring while walking ikea. I was told I couldnt leave if my water was broken, but i couldnt stay without an exam to make sure it had. I knew nothing goes in if water was broken, I was between a rock and a hard place I couldnt go or stay. My doula wasnt there yet, by I had my husband and my mom, my mother was my ob/gyns nurse for 5 years and had assisted over 200 births in that hospital. I made sure that the collection was done with a single use sterial stick. After Scrapping the nurse sticks her hand into me. My mother told her to stop, and was told this is part of the collection, at which point we said “you do not have informed consent” i stood up and started yelling at the nurse that she just started me on the intervention snowball. she looked at me and said she already could tell the water was broken before the exam and i was on a timer anyway. I reported the nurse while in the hospital, and several times after untill she was fired for it. but that doesnt fix the fact inspite of wanting to have relations with my husband i freakout and have psycologicaaly indused pains, and i have medically diagonsed ptsd. I am in a ppd support group and seeing a psycologist, but its a long trail till i will feel ok.

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Jennie Rimes September 27, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I, too, was birth-raped. My 1st pregnancy ended in a failed induction (I was told my amnio was low and so we needed to induce b/c the baby was in danger. *rolling eyes now*). I desperately wanted aVBAC for my 2nd. I labored at home, but never having got past 2 cm w/ my first, I had no idea what labor was and went to the hospital too early. My doctor, not only lied to me saying the baby was in danger (but couldn’t give me an example), took my husband outside in the hallway and told him that I was dying and the baby would probably die as well if he didn’t sign the C-section papers. Once I was on the OR table, spinal in place, he tested me and asked, “Can you feel this?” “YES! it hurts!” He told me, “You have 2 minutes to get numb or I’m putting you under.” SO I answered, “Then start cutting.”

And he did. I felt every millimeter of that scalpel as it sliced through my skin, my muscle and my uterus. Finally, my mind shut down half-way through. I suffered from PTSD for years following the birth of my son. My husband and I had sexual problems for months afterwards until I explained to him, “A man tied me down to a table and even though I was crying and saying ‘no!’, he did to me what HE wanted to do. What does that sound like to YOU?” He answered, “It sounds like rape.” And that is exactly was it was. He used a scalpel instead of a penis, but he *raped* me.

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Erin January 22, 2013 at 3:00 pm

My doctor performed a vacuum extraction without my consent, and I cannot believe it was done. I have PTSD and do not want to have another baby. It’s awful.

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kristen March 23, 2013 at 11:20 am

I know the feeling you are talking about…when my doctor with my first gave me a double episiotomy without a word…it was shocking it took me out of my zone and it was an awful painful recovery….its like i lost all of my ability to continue…my baby just fell out. i just feel like he literally cut me and she fell out of me like surgery i did not feel like a part of the birth like i did with my second child and whew im had a home water birth with my third and will never expose myself to another hospital birth where control can be taken away justifiably by a doctor with no valid reason…after that first birth i felt the disconnect helpless in pain…with my secind and third no tearing or anything and with my third our breastfeeding relationship is thriving…i used to think there was somethiung wrong with me bc i didnt feel those happy feeling when i nursed my first two the oxytocin? anyways with my third i finally have it and i believe its rooted in his pleseant birth its a wild connection thats hard to explain.

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Maegan March 23, 2013 at 11:25 am

I had heard stories about Drs stripping membranes without asking, so EVERYtime I went to a dr I would say, “I do NOT give you permission to strip my membranes!” It just occurred to me after reading this how incredibly wrong it is that I’d have to say that!!! I eventually got bolder and wouldn’t even let Drs check me until I wanted them to, which was only once I was in labor & was curious to know progress. My last 2 out of 5 births I had the best Dr & he let me do whatever I wanted. It’s sad that being allowed to make choices is “rare” among (birth) days.

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Amanda March 23, 2013 at 11:44 am

After reading this article I also feel like I was birth raped the first time I had a baby in hospital. I was only 19 years old and single (I gave my baby up for adoption) and I went into labour 2 weeks early, so my parents weren’t even in town when I gave birth. My sister was there instead. I remember the nurse coming in several times to check how dialated I was and when she inserted her finger it hurt like hell and I told her to stop and she wouldn’t listen to me. Instead she shoved her fingers right up quickly and with much force causing me to scream and start crying. I don’t remember if it was the same nurse or not, but it was done several times to me over the course of the 14 hours that I was in hospital–even when I told them to stop, they wouldn’t listen to me. Then when I finally gave birth, the doctor gave me an episiotomy without my knowledge. I could barely walk or sit for a few weeks. It was a complete nightmare for a young, naive 19 year old girl. Not only was it already traumatic that I knew that I would never take my baby home since I was giving him up for adoption, but to add to that already sad state, the hospital staff make it much, much worse. I still experience trauma over the whole thing.

However, I had my second child in my 30s and this time round, I made sure that I was the one who was in control. I was not going to be that 19 year old victim again. Screw the doctors or nurses. I got myself a wonderful, caring midwife who listened to me, cared for me and coached me through the natural birth of my daughter. It was wonderful–just me, my husband, midewife and a couple of other midwives there to help out. This time, it was wonderful. Not only did I get to keep my baby and take her home with me, but I felt like I was treated like a real human being and really cared for.

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Tami March 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I’ll admit, as I first started reading this, I didn’t get it. I mean, I KNOW awful things happen during birth but I never would have classified it as rape. Until, I read one of the birth stories about the women’s midwife stretching her cervix, without permission. That was me. And then I understood, completely. With my first son, I had a midwife that is very popular in our area. I had only heard good things about her. But I had those doubts that you mentioned, from the very beginning and to this day, I tell all my friends, family and clients, to go with their gut and switch providers if that’s what they’re feeling. During my labor, after many other interventions that I felt pressured into, my midwife started prying my cervix open with both hands. I was on my back, legs over my stomach, as she used her whole body to pry me open. Then she quickly brought in a student midwife, whom I had never met and she had just mentioned, and they both began prying me open. Imagine a box, you pry open two opposite sides and someone does the other two sides, that’s what they did to me. For hours. I didn’t realize at the time how bad it truly was but I’m surprised my husband didn’t suffer PTS from it. He said I had black and blue bruises extending from my vagina down my thighs. I was SO swollen and blood was everywhere. After hours of this, I had to be transferred to the hospital (I was at the mid wife’s birth center, connected to her house) and I had a vacuum assisted delivery. I’m lucky I didn’t swell shut and end up with a cesarean. I now know that was rape, so thank you for this article. When I told my second midwife about my first experience, she said that what I had done to me has a name (I can’t remember) and it is only used in emergency situations, when a baby’s head is stuck behind the pubic bone. My baby wasn’t even close as I was barely 10cm and had no urge to push, at the time she started this maneuver. I am now a birth doula and support women through it all. I hope I never have to witness the horrible things I and so many others have experienced. Unfortunately, I know it is very real and I will have to. But I will continue to support and be there for all birthing women.

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Martika March 23, 2013 at 12:00 pm

I never realized it till reading this but I was birth raped as well. it was my first baby. I was dialated at 5 and in excruciating pain. I have scoliosis and didn’t want the epidural do to high precentages of women with scoliosis having nicked nerves. I told my doctor this but after 6 hours of labor she coerced me into getting the epidural and what do you know they nicked a nerve. not only that but my son was being born after 12 hours of labor and I guess the doctor thought I couldn’t get him out so she decided to start cutting me. (I said no and asked her to stop cuz it hurt..) well after he cutting me I ripped the rest of the way down. (another doc told me if she hadn’t started the cut it wouldn’t have ripped” my son is now 2 1/2 years old.. and I am still sore and have horrable amounts of scar tissue down there. they were afraid that it may rip again so they took my daughter (6 m) via emergency C-section but didn’t tell me what the emergency was. I couldn’t even hardly feel the contractions at this point. then it was 4-6 hours before I saw my daughter and I had told them “no formula” when I finaly got to see her I asked if she had ate anything. the nurse that brought her in said no. and the nurse that was on the night I had her said she had 2 bottles of formula.. why did they do this when I had doctors and head nurse sign my birth plan… now I realize it wasn’t my fault everything was the way it is.

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Maria March 23, 2013 at 12:21 pm

My experience with this trauma happened in 1987 following the birth of my second son when a doctor(?) who was not present during the delivery came in while I was waiting to be taken to recovery (no nursing staff present, my husband was with our son on the way to the nursery) who lifted the sheet, shoved his hand inside and proceeded to scrape with his gloved fingers. I was shocked and confused and in pain! When I asked him what he was doing he said, “Just cleaning you out.” No medical reason was stated for this dangerous procedure and no record of the person or his actions were recorded in my file. I, too, was young and thought hospitals were safe places. My last 3 boys were born at home with a qualified, exceptional midwife. These stories are heartbreaking and tragic and far too numerous.

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Grace March 23, 2013 at 12:50 pm

My sister is an L&D nurse and said she was recently talking to an OB who told her “if a patient doesn’t want me to do something and I do it against her will (barring a true medical emergency), then it is assault.” Thankfully this OB understands what you are talking about in this, that if a woman asks her not to do something, it is criminal to do so except in the rare circumstances when it is truly an emergency, and even then they should work to help the patient understand what is going on and see if they can come to a consensus.

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Christina March 23, 2013 at 1:01 pm

My story is so painful and raw still, even after 4 years, that I do not have the heart to write it out again. I just wanted to let you amazing mothers know that you are not alone in the travesties that were done to you during birth and sadly we will not be the last until something is done to protect us from harm by the hands of hospitals, “doctors” and nurses.

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Lindy March 23, 2013 at 1:27 pm

I have not read thru all of the comments, but I just wanted to ADD to this blog post that postpartum care can also include a similar concept to “birth rape.” My second baby was an “accidental home birth” – it was an absolutely beautiful experience. He is only 17 months younger than his older brother (we got pregnant again quickly by accident, because I did not want to take birth control.) During my entire second pregnancy, my dr often asked about what kind of birth control I wanted to go on…we were uncomfortable with pills…..so we thought the copper IUD might be the best choice for us, but a week before my 6 week post partum check up, I got an uneasy feeling. When I went in, I asked a lot of questions and even shared my concern about not feeling 100% sure about it, but ultimately my doctor pressured me and when I left that office with the IUD in me, I FELT LIKE I HAD BEEN RAPED! It was very emotionally traumatic for me! I know thousands of women have IUD’s and love them, but for me, this was NOT OKAY. It was put in on a Friday, I called the office Monday telling them I wanted it out asap (After being emotional, bleeding, and super fatigued all weekend), but the soonest she could get me in was Thursday. My husband saw some of the blood gushing when I went to the bathroom and he ended up taking me to the ER where he almost had to force the dr to take it out.

So my words of encouragement for women is to GO WITH YOUR GUT feeling, and I have to agree with the last paragraph of this blog post – don’t be afraid about offending someone and don’t even be afraid of what someone might think of you! (I was afraid my dr and nurses would think I was high strung or just some lame duck for not wanting to get the IUD….) but it’s MY BODY, MY CHOICE!

Thank you BWF for blogging about these things and encouraging such discussion!

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Aimee March 23, 2013 at 2:51 pm

It didn’t occur to me to call my experience birth rape, until I finally told my birth story to a good friend. I remember telling the doctor I didn’t want an episiotomy, to which he replied, “We’ll try our best.” I remember looking at my mother, pleading with her with my eyes to protect me. When I was having difficulty getting my daughters shoulders out, the doctor said , “We need an episiotomy.” I screamed, “NO! Don’t cut me.” He told me to push, I did. Then he said, “I need to do an episiotomy.” I screamed, cried, cursed, and begged him not to cut me. He completely ignored me. Despite my epidural I felt every single thing. I felt the cut, I felt the rest of me tear wide open when my daughter came out. I was left with a horrible 4th degree tear, that later became infected. I felt every single stitch, and was denied holding my perfectly healthy daughter for the first four hours of her life. I was told, “At least your baby is healthy. That’s all that matters.”

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Elizabeth March 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm

I too was birth raped and it still to this haunts me and brings me to tears. It was with my DS3, I was admitted to hospital and was doing quite fine but wasn’t moving as well as they wanted so they were forcing pictocin on me. Due to previous experiences with it I knew I needed an epi first because I fail to dilate without in when I have pictocin, I was continuously lied to about when the epi was coming and finally the nurse told me the anesthesiologist was coming in in 15mins to do it but I needed to start the pic first. After starting the pic we quickly learned it was a lie, to top if off she was feeding it through too fast, eventually the contractions became unbearable and even my husband started begging for help. They threatened to remove my husband from the hospital for “harassing them” because he kept going out begging for heating pack, other things to help with the pain, and even just for the nurse to actually come in the room. When she finally did come it it was only to tell me to stop being such a baby and to shut up and to shut the door because I was “disturbing other patients” I was appalled. At one point she did give me a shot of morphine, which we later learned was a lie and why it didn’t work, all she gave was gravol and then claimed there was nothing else she could give me for pain because you were only allowed morphine once (according to her) by that point the pain was so intense that during contractions I was blacking out for a few seconds, it was so intense that I looked at the window and wished I could reach it to jump out to end the pain (something that makes me feel extremely horrible now, but that is how bad the pain was).

By the time the OB came in to see how things were going the anesthesiologist was just arriving in the room too. I was fully dilated but my son at some point had turned and was transverse, he was coming out back first with his head snapped behind his back. The doctor needed to turn him and the anesthesiologist seeing how much pain I was in prepped the epi. The nurse loudly told them that I could do it on my own, and without drugs, that I just needed to stop being a baby, since the doctor wouldn’t move she stepped to the side of my bed, reached over and rammed her hand (and arm!) inside me trying to move my son to the right position while telling me to bear down. The pain was so intense I was nearly blacking out and I was screaming at her to remove her hand, she told me NO numerous times and told me to push down and stop being a baby, I could not bear down, I could not do anything because of the intense pain I was feeling, I finally mustered the strength to raise my foot up and GENTLY remove her hand from inside me. I was yelled at and she threatened to charge me with assault and kept going on about how I was being violent toward her, what about her violence towards ME? She birth raped me and then blamed me and played like she was the victim, I was completely humiliated. The doctor kicked her out of the room and with her gone I was able to get the epi, the OB quickly changed his position and he was delivered seconds later. Due to her neglect in not realizing he flipped and was transverse and her getting in the way and raping me my son was trapped in the birth canal too long and coded as soon as his cord was cut. We watched in horror as they worked on him for almost 10 minutes, after he was revived he was taken to be watched in the NICU for a few hours.

It wasn’t until his first well baby check that we discovered that in a bid to cover their butts they put his apgar score was 9 & 9, if it wasn’t for having pictures of them bagging and working on him the family doctor was threatening to report us to child protection for lying about something so serious for attention……Now we know why they tried to block my husband from snapping pictures while they were working on him, not only was I raped but our family nearly destroyed so they could cover their own butts. I also, because of her tore very badly and when he was just over a week old I suffered from a delayed postpartum hemorrhage, which is when we found out I was not given morphine. I was given morphine during the bleed and it almost killed me, perplexed at how I could have no reaction at all but have it nearly stop my heart and my ability to breath there (I couldn’t fill my lungs, I just completely shut down) the doctor phone the other hospital to ask for all the reports, that is when he seen that morphine was ordered by the doctor but was not given and canceled, and only the gravol he ordered was actually administered.

I suffer from PTSD now and because of it my following pregnancy and delivery was far from fun, I had anxiety and panic attacks and feared giving birth.

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Laura Merwin May 18, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Horrifying! People DO want to know about this and NEED to hear what’s going on. Love and light; healing and peace, Mama. One foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

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Olga March 23, 2013 at 4:27 pm

My mom told me about this and to never trust dr.s. when I would mention this to other women they would laugh and say its not true. I know this is true and now I have proof> my mom saved a girl by telling her how dr.s try to scare a first time mothers into surgery and other unnecessary things. She then told her of how her dr was saying she needed surgery and problems she had. She ignored them and did not let them touch her. She gave birth naturally with no complications to a healthy baby girl. I was not birth raped but there was one time it almost came close to that. I told my dr that my baby was going to be late because I new when I conceived and the due date the dr gave me was off. She told me that if I was over due more then a week she would induce me. I was so mad, angry how dare a dr tell my body and baby when to come out just because of an “estimated” due date! when I came home I told my husband if any thing happens to me like if I cant think for myself from pain, tiredness, etc. (this was my first baby so I did not know what to expect) I told him to not let the dr. induce me, give eperdoral, have surgery or anything else they will say. unless you can see that im dying then act. why was I so serious about this was that my mothers mother lived in Belarus in a little village she had 8 kids total in her life 2 of her births to me were so amazing. One of her births was when she was out on a field digging up potato’s pregnant she left it was time for baby to come. she gave birth on the field wrapped the baby and lay it on some hay to keep it warm and continued working! no dr.s, no surgery, no nothing! how powerful women are and a lot of us don’t even know it. another child that she had was when she was in the woods walking home from a big town. she had her baby alone in the woods and came back home with a baby. (all of her children are healthy and all the rest she did have in a hospital. These 2 cases they could not make it to a hospital) knowing how strong my grandma was I was not going to let anyone scare me, laugh at me, or tell me what to do when my body knows what to do and the baby knows when to come out. All women be strong we are very powerful more then a lot of us think.

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Jessica Turner March 23, 2013 at 5:46 pm

These stories, and this expression birth rape, this reminds me so much of a dear friend of mine! With the birth of her second daughter, she went to the same hospital she had gone to with her first, to be with an OB she had trusted. When she went into labor, her OB was not available, and they called in the only other doctor available – one who was just getting his license back after his (third!) malpractice suit. Not only was her labor and birth uncomfortable and cold, but it was the afterbirthing that just broke her. After they took her baby from her, not even letting her hold her child, he – without warning – reached up inside of her (“His whole arm!”) and “Yanked the placenta out of me, just ripped it out! I felt raped!” She bled horribly as a result.

This brutality scarred her so badly that she refuses to birth a baby at a hospital again… sadly, her new husband is not comfortable with midwives, much less a homebirth, and she has had to choose to never have anymore children. It hurt her, her confidence in her ability to reproduce, and her marriage – as there is contention about it to this day. It breaks my heart that she has no support on this matter, and is told that doctors… have a licence to rape, basically. Thank you for posting about this, and raising awareness!

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Caroline March 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm

OMG what a powerful description from Jennie! “My husband and I had sexual problems for months afterwards until I explained to him, “A man tied me down to a table and even though I was crying and saying ‘no!’, he did to me what HE wanted to do. What does that sound like to YOU?” He answered, “It sounds like rape.” And that is exactly was it was. He used a scalpel instead of a penis, but he *raped* me.”

Even though I am careful making absolute statements on other birth-related topics, I often use the issue of consent to explain to others why birthing outside of a hospital environment is undisputedly BETTER (I personally never felt “raped”, the angle here is more on “owning” your birthing experience).

Just to compare: my first birth – induced in hospital – I often had no idea what was going on (so obviously no one cared to inform me very much). The second one, in a birthing centre, was beautiful, intimate and respectful, so much so that my midwife APOLOGIZED to me when I said Hands off!
The third, in the same hospital for lack of time to get to our birthing centre in the snow, the midwife was only just bearable because I knew what I was doing and stood up for myself and because it was so quick (she only had ten minutes to get into arguments with me and btw, she did not like me talking back). In the same situation as at the birth centre that I mentioned before, she had to be told to stop prodding THREE TIMES.

On this note, I wish we could turn a spotlight on educating men as well, TO GIVING THEM A VOICE. Men must be just as empowered as the woman birthing their child to speak for them and to say NO! when they can see her struggling to be heard!

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Kory March 24, 2013 at 4:48 am

Excellent point! My poor hubby feels so power less when it comes to birth, I could hardly get him to talk to me let alone the medical staff. Our partners definitely need to be informed and empowered so that they know they have a voice in that room as well!

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Holly March 23, 2013 at 6:16 pm

My membranes were stripped, without my permission or being asked, with my five year old. With my three year old, the nurse repeatedly held me down for CE’s and literally forced (by this I mean physically moving me) to roll after each contraction (right side/contraction, back/CE, left side/contraction, back/CE, Right side/contraction.. repeat for several hours). I remember literally hanging onto the side of the bed and begging her not to touch me again. She did not comply. It was my longest of all six labors. Afterwards she comes in and says “See, I helped you, imagine how much longer it would have taken if I hadn’t had you roll”. Had not force.. it was disgusting. I remember this so well… what I do NOT remember is W(here)TF my husband was at the time!? I have asked him and he said he was right there but I really don’t remember him being there at all.. I don’t know WHY when I was begging NOT to be touched he didn’t step in. The torture stopped when I agreed to her stupid epidural she had been pushing on me since she came on shift. Luckily, my son was heading out onto the table when she came back into the room after leaving to call the anesthesiologist. I am now pregnant again and scared to death. :( In August I will be going back to the same hospital to deliver another child. I thought I was good and past it until I realized where I had to go to have the baby :( Now, I’m so not ok. I don’t know how to bring this up to my OB (he was not there during any of this and missed the birth thanks to a blizzard). I am going to have a doula/my best friend there so I’m hoping that helps but I’m still terrified. I’m afraid if I bring it up to my OB he’s going to A) Think I’m nuts and B) drop me as a patient. Since I am considered “high risk” (early deliveries, PCOS, GD, etc) finding another OB may be difficult. :( I want to deliver at one of the other hospitals but then will NOT have my OB… IDK what to do :(

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Kory March 24, 2013 at 4:45 am

Your Dr cannot simple drop you, he would have to ensure you had continuation of care… You do have the option of walking into the emergency room at another hospital… They can’t refuse you care, but as you said, you wouldn’t have your OB. I would definitely bring it up.

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Michaela March 23, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I gave birth 2 years ago in the Czech Republic. I thought it would be better to fly there to be with my family (I live in the UK). I found a hospital who were doing alternative births. I went for hypnobirthing class with my partner and really tried to prepare. I was really looking forward my birth. After I arrived at the hospital, series of interventions were going on – vaginal examinations, foetal monitoring, talking, disturbing etc. I ended up having 48 hours labour and ventouse delivery. It was very traumatic and I felt powerless and hurt. After my son was born, the doctor just put his hand inside me and pulled my placenta out. I couldn’t believe it and just looked at him in disbelief. I surely suffered with PND but never sought help. I felt raped for ages and only was able to say it out loud recently. My sex drive went completely away, and if I never had sex again I wouldn’t mind. It broke my heart and my soul, and I couldn’t bond properly with my son, I had problems breastfeeding but I was so determined to do it right, that I pushed and after 3 months of broken nipples, pain, blood and mastitis I succeeded and breastfed for 9 months. I now trained as a doula and hypnobirthing practitioner, and I am determined to help women have empowering birth experience. Yes there is a very fine line between empowering and traumatic experience. I still need to seek help but it will all be good at the end….I know it.

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Becca @ Bare Feet on the Dashboard March 23, 2013 at 9:36 pm

1st baby: forced into induction, water broken w/o permission, cascade of interventions, doc tried 2x to forcibly turn my son (he was sunny side up) creating the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, forced into c-section, told “It’s ok honey, you got a healthy baby, didn’t you?”
2nd baby: due in April, natural birth specialist OB, hired a doula, educated myself, ready to speak up and fight for the birth my baby and I deserve, writing a “Trying for a VBAC” series on my blog

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Kory March 24, 2013 at 4:41 am

I am so incredibly sorry to read so many stories of women being violated. It really breaks my heart.

With my first child I was told I couldn’t be allowed to go any further past my due date, that it was too dangerous for the baby. I literally asked for one more day and was told no. They told me I would be induced, but that my cervix wasn’t dilated enough, so I would have to have my membranes swept and a catheter placed. I admit, I was naive. They had been telling me since my first appointment that I would need a c-section, that I’d never get the natural birth I wanted. I didn’t realize I could have left, changed practices, found a better OB…

Anyway, she had given me the option of inducing this way or having a c-section. I opted to try the induction I didn’t understand because I was so afraid of the c-section. When I went in they had me in the teeniest little room and two women came in, I still don’t know if they were Drs, nurses, what. They had me put my feet up in stirrups and put in a speculum and apparently I wasn’t dilated enough for them to effectively sweep my membranes… they had to pry my cervix open first, then sweep, and then insert a catheter. All of it hurt. Like hell. I didn’t understand what was going on, but at some point the lady pulled out a bloody mass and said ‘well, there’s your mucus plug’. I didn’t respond because I was in shock. At some point the pain was too much and I started crying. The lady laughed. LAUGHED at me and said if I couldn’t handle what she was doing I should just book my c-section because I’d never get through birth. I can’t even explain what that felt like.

I was sent home and told to report to L&D in the morning. I went in and they removed the catheter and started me on pitocin and broke my water. All the while acting like I was an inconvenience. Everytime the OB came in to check on me I was ordered to the bed, checked for dilation, and then she’d act all irritated by my ‘lack of progress’. I was allowed to labor for 11 whole hours before they said I wasn’t progressing and it was stressing the baby out (which they had no proof of, baby was fine on the monitor). OB said I could get the c-section now, or in an hour. I asked to try other things, reminded her that she’d suggested an epidural earlier because ‘it would relax me’, maybe we could try that? Anything? She said it was too late for all that. She could give me an hour.

I cried. I cried and cried and cried. She and the nurse both said there was no reason to cry, it wasn’t a big deal (like they had the right to trivialize my feelings after everything else). Needless to say I had the c-section. I had panic attacks and cried through the entire surgery. I had horrible PPD and bonding issues afterward. I was never able to breastfeed properly… The list goes on and on.

The real kicker? We found out from another OB the next day that the reason my Dr had said she could only give me another hour was because SHE HAD A PLANE TO CATCH. Obviously I’m still mad.

I’m now nearly 40 weeks with my third. I had a VBAC with my second, but still had a few issues come up. I had to be induced again at nearly 42 weeks and again had a cervical catheter placed. The midwife was really respectful and patient and apologized for my discomfort, but the trauma from my first birth made it awful. There was a lot of fear involved in the birth process in general for me. I was afraid of the interventions, afraid of the looming possibility of a repeat c-section. Afraid of the uterine rupture everyone seemed to want to remind me was a possibility. This time around I feel stronger, even more informed, more confident in my body. I still haven’t let them anywhere near my cervix this time around though. The very thought is terrifying to me.

Thank you for all the work you do at BWF, and to the other women sharing their stories. Knowledge is power.

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janette March 24, 2013 at 3:19 pm

wow i had never heard of birth rape i have had 3 pregnancy my middle one bein twins n never experienced nothing bad, im sending my love to all you beautiful ladies xx

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Patti March 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm

As so many have already mentioned, it is important to also empower our birth partners! My husband is one such empowered person. With our first birth, when he heard the nurse talking about adding pit since my labor stalled, he went and found the nurse who had taught our classes and asked her if there was anything else we could try. At another birth, the nurse who was coaching my pushing stage was driving me nuts for some reason…her voice just grated on me….he went and quietly asked for another person to come in the room. This nurse didn’t coach me so much as encourage me. I call him my birth protector. But he had to learn to speak up. WE talked A LOT about what was expected. The one induction birth I had (42+ weeks) he felt so powerless and so did I. The nurse kept turning up the pit, DR nowhere to be found to make her comply with our wishes since my water had already broken at this point and she was supposed to taper off. I eventually shocked him by begging for an epidural.
Anyway, other than bragging about my husband, my point is that your support needs to SPEAK UP and not be afraid to go over the head of whoever gets in the way of your wishes. Just knowing someone has your back helps so much!

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first time mom March 24, 2013 at 9:02 pm

I thought i had escaped all that when i got a home birth midwife. I ended up with a bully. she made me lye in the bed during contractions when i felt much better standing. she fell asleep on my rocking chairthat I got out of storage to labor in. she had promised to take out the iv and wouldnt because I wasnt drinking enough water. I was drinking water just fine. she ordered me to lay on my back to push out my baby when I thought I was going to have freedom of movment. she thretened to leave if i didnt. I didnt have an urge to push yet. she started pulling on my vulva hard. I was screaming. she told me that the baby wasn’t coming out my mouth. she told me that i had to hold my breth curl up and push hard. when she went to get the monitor i had no pain during that contraction. but then she pulled on me again. then she told me the heart rate was going down and i had to get the baby out fast. there was no dangerous heart rate dip according to the labor notes. finally after 30 minutes of screaming and trying to roll away from her horrid fingers my son started to crown. she had her fingers off me and then there was no pain. she of course had to mention that “this is normally when they cut the women” I didnt need her running commentary or coached pushing. i ignored her as I slowly pushed my baby out. she kept telling me to push harder and faster. his head popped out and i took a moment to rest. she told me to keep pusing that it wasnt over. i wasnt having a contraction. I gently slowly pushed my baby’s shoulders out ignoring her. I was so angry at her that I wanted nothing to do with anything. My placenta popped out. she finally pulled out that iv that I never wanted and felt bullied into. I got a bath and finally remembered that I should try breastfeeding. it was over an hour after the birth. she snoozed in my chair for the hour long observation and then left. I know it isnt as bad as other women have had it and people dont seem to get why im upset. But I felt bullied during childbirth. I am well educated about how the female body works in labor. I know about the way the pelvic outlit was designed. i remember telling her that it didnt make psyalogical sence to be on my back. I had tried to get on my hands and knees and she only allowed it for almost a contraction before telling me it wasnt going to work. I thought i had chosen a hands off birth attendant. But I got the hospital experience in my room. I cant go into the room i had at my inlaws without panicking. when i lye on my back and see the ceiling I panic, as I remember her face hovering above me unsympathetically. my husband did try some. but he got bullied too. I wish he would have stood up for me like I thought he would. There was no reason for her to intrude. I was handling labor very well. she interupted a normal healthy process. when she saw he had “a little moulding” she said it like it was a bad thing. he had a small ammount of moulding. I would have prefered more I think. I hated feeling rushed and bullied. I hated fingers grabbing me without anyone asking. If I had been able to talk I would have told her to stop. I thought someone had to ask permission before they touched your genitals. I was nowhere near crowning when she was pulling on me. Later she told me that she did it so I wouldnt tear. I wasnt worried about tearing. I would rather that happened than having unwanted fingers i my body. I had also spent the previous 2 months doing peri massage before labor to prepare the area. and peri massage (more like peri torture) in labor is proven by class A evidence to cause more tearing. We dont pull on a dogs genitals. we dont make a cat lye on its back. we just let it happen. human women are treated worse than dogs in labor.

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Jessica March 25, 2013 at 12:53 pm

As a rape survivor, this is really triggering for me, and really makes me question whether to have children. I feel badly for anyone who has gone through the experience of someone touching them/performing medical procedures without their consent. Going through birth seems like it would be challenging enough without someone forcing someone to move through the process faster for their convenience.

I don’t agree with doing anything to push someone through labor faster just so a doctor can meet a tee time or get a good night’s sleep, nor do I think it’s okay to physically manipulate someone’s vagina/cervix without consent. That is really triggering for me.

However, I also know that there are times that a nurse or doctor must deviate from a birth plan due to complications and symptoms of fetal distress. A birth plan is written based on an ideal birthing experience, and sometimes, real life intervenes. You can’t foresee every complication. Giving birth is still one of the most dangerous things that a woman can do, in spite of technological advances. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous, and no matter how much you do to prepare yourself for a “normal” and healthy birth experience, things do sometimes deviate from normal.

I also understand and empathize the motivation to avoid litigation when these complications could result in maternal/fetal injury or death, and don’t believe that doctors should have to take on more liability to accommodate a birth plan. Invasive measures should be a last resort and be done with informed consent, but in a situation where the mother doesn’t consent, what do you do then?

How can doctors/nurses communicate better with patients when they believe, in their best medical opinion, that it is necessary to deviate from the birth plan?

Would you, as a patient, be willing to sign away your legal rights to sue a doctor/hospital for malpractice if sticking to your birth plan results in injury or death for mother and/or child?

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Mahla May 20, 2013 at 6:14 am

Jessica, and anyone having triggers or doubts about having babies after reading this…having children may, or may not, be really very healing. if you have not already, find an experienced counsellor first. then, if and when you feel ready to have babies, find a midwife early on. interview several until you find one you feel comfortable. with, then interview her previous clients. A good midwife will find plenty of previous clients only too happy to tell others about their midwife! if something doesn’t feel right, change.
I too feel freaked out reading these stories! but I know many good midwives and as a midwife myself, I would like to counter some of the stories here (no disrespect to their tellers and their sometimes deeply disturbing experiences) with a little information about how i practice midwifery. i am not unique, there are some wonderful midwives around (i live in Australia, women here are cared for by midwives not nurses).
i do very very few internal examinations, with the usual reason for doing them- “requested”, ie when a woman feels it would be helpful to know where she is at. even then I always talk it through with them…we don’t know that being *so* many centimetres dilated tells us anything about how soon the baby will be born (some women dilate slowly, some quickly, some go backwards for a while before progressing again). there are lots of ways of gauging progress in labour without touching. Many then decide not to have the check, although if they still think it would be helpful, they ALWAYS know that I will stop if they ask me to. the second they ask me to. I am as gentle as I can be, whilst doing what I set out to do thoroughly. Then I talk them through what I am doing/feeling. I am generally hands off, I really only even catch the baby if it looks like no one else is going to! and the only episiotomy I have ever cut was on a woman with a really unhappy baby, with full permission, as a student when I was given the option of doing it or watching it done. I have never felt the need to do it since, but am glad that I have done one so that if I am ever in the situation of believing it is necessary again, i will be to do so confidently and efficiently.
Birth can be ecstatic, healing, empowering. I have seen it give ownership of women’s bodies back to survivor women. it can be hard work though, and like anything worth doing it requires preparation. it doesn’t always go according to plan as it is one of the few things left in western culture we can’t control. But having someone you know and trust to guide you through it can help make that okay and is worth the money and more (may I just say that I work for a public hospital, but know, love, trust and recommend private, independent midwives in certain situations). There are some awful midwives, doctors, nurses out there, but not all of us are monsters, or rapists.
Birth can be a dangerous time for women and babies, but in western culture the reason is usually because of intervention (well intended or otherwise), poor nutrition, drug use or other issues along the same vein…self education/informed decision making is paramount. in non western settings issues such as hygiene, fgm, very young mothers, and all of the above play a role. however some babies have other plans for reasons of their own and again, I stress, having a trusted care provider can make a huge difference in making this okay at the time. a birth plan is useful for situations where women don’t know who their provider will be on the day, being allocated a nurse/midwife/doctor upon going into labour (with an independent midwife this should all be covered in detail prior to the labour starting without needing it in writing) and generally it is a plan for a straight forward birth/cesarean, with the expectation that deviations from the norm will be discussed in as much detail as the situation allows, and informed consent freely given. in a genuine life or death scenario (so rare now despite what you hear!), a birth plan will generally go out the window with, ideally, appropriate information and an opportunity to debrief afterwards. No waiver such as you suggest would stand up in court, hopefully this is not a necessary statement.
I disagree that it can be, as you say, “one of the most dangerous things a woman can do”. if this were true, there would be far fewer people on this blue and green ball! given the right circumstances, it is very safe. Maternal deaths are extremely rare. Most other complications we bounce right back from. women are made to give birth. many complications occur as a result of intervention (don’t believe me? there’s an awful lot of research to back that statement up), many others we can see coming and prepare for which is why I suggest having a good midwife, although I support a woman’s right to free birth if that’s her informed decision.
AND, if you choose not to have children for any reason, that’s okay too.

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Amy May 18, 2013 at 3:22 pm

I have only heard of this for the first time today after reading this article. I am not married yet and I am a student nurse in training. I was once placed in the labor ward as part of the program. The protocols in my country is absolutely appalling. Doctors here whether male or female have no compassion, are rough, several doctors will examine you in the same minute and WILL NOT ASK your permission for anything whatsoever once you are admitted into the labor ward and whats worse is, you are on your own as family members including your husband is not allowed inside the labor room. And SHOCKINGLY enough, if you are a new mother, you do not have a say in anything apart from when to push. You will be given an episiotomy whether you like it or not, No drugs, they will break your waters when they feel is necessary even before needed, and the list continues. Not being a mother yet, scares the life out of me and If i had to go through such a humiliating, degrading and painful experience by the doctors and midwives and NOT enjoy the birth of my child. I’d rather have a painfree birth and have a C-section.. sadlyy…

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Amanda May 18, 2013 at 3:29 pm

With each contraction, my baby’s heart rate would fluctuate, which common sense would tell you, “well duh!”. My doctor didn’t like it, so she insisted on sticking a needle into my baby’s head to better check his HR. I refused to let her, so whilst mid-contraction and helpless, she shoved her hand up in me and stuck the needle in. I was so furious, but also so confused, so I didn’t do anything about it. This was 6 years ago and it still makes me angry to think about it!

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Jen May 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm

I do not have any babies of my own (yet) but these stories are the reason I became a Birth Educator. Thank you all for having the courage to speak up and tell your stories! I hope it brings comfort to know that you have already helped so many other women in so many ways and these stories ARE making a difference in the way our society views birth.

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Krissy May 18, 2013 at 4:04 pm

My doctor, knowing I already had sexual abuse issues and was proceeding with extreme caution so as not to cause myself trauma, allowed me the birth I wanted but then ripped my placenta from my body without warning. I thank God I had an epidural, my baby was on a table next to me not breathing while she did this…my fiancé and I were so overwhelmed and confused we just stood there. This was 14 months ago and I only admitted to myself this past week what has happened to me. I now know why I lash out, why I am so angry, why I couldn’t bond with my baby, why my milk supply was shitty, why my marriage is falling apart….I have started to send in my birth story so many times but I just can’t get through it. I am starting to put the pieces back together one day at a time…I guess. But what do you do when you want to go find the doctor who raped you and hurt them back, or scream in their face and show them your pain…or just make them sorry, somehow. Do I bother reporting it? Am I strong enough to face my rapist and get answers? I don’t know.

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Zeresh Altork May 18, 2013 at 5:12 pm

It happens! It happened to me during my first birth, unfortunately it is something I didn’t even realize until months later, my memory of the experience was only of the positive, and in my mind what had happened was justified, but when I started to think back and looked at the video I realized that I had experienced birth rape. Things were done to me as I asked over and over again that it stop. Luckily my birth was relatively fast and I was able to stay focused and continue to trust myself and my body and I did birth my baby boy at home. It taught me a lot, I became a doula and CBE and with my next home birth I had a wonderfully respectful midwife Loving Hands Midwife… Celebrating Pregnancy, Birth and…, and I got to share the experience with my son, my gift to him as well, and he loved it! <3

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Amber May 18, 2013 at 5:42 pm

What do you do when you have a doctor violate your wishes, disrespect you and force a c-section on you because they say “I’m not listening to this” (me crying in pain) because of their roughness? I begged for my doctor who was unable to be there. No one would find me another doctor. They allowed visitors when I multiple times said no visitors during labor. The visitors & I fought which resulted in oxygen. The epidural (forced for forced c-section) felt like my spine was being ripped between my hips…nothing like mine with my first child) and I was yelled at and told to remain still and there’s no way it could feel like that. I was terrified and bawling. I was ignored during surgery. Sewn up half by the nurse so that that whole side now sags. I still feel pain there. My bladder leaks. I was ignored in recovery. I was treated…like an animal. I arrived at 3am and was cut and ‘delivered’ at 8am. I went though such a traumatic birth experience with my second child that I live in fear of becoming pregnant every day. Despite my first child’s birth being one of my most cherished memories. I am so scared to disappoint my Husband for he loves children and badly wants more. I can’t even appreciate my child as I should because of the PPD and PTSD that I fight. No one will believe me about this doctor. No one will listen to me. Not even my family or friends understand the seriousness. Everyone thinks I’m overreacting or exaggerating. I’m even resented or assumed crazy. It’s been four years and I hold back the pain, hurt and fear. What do I do…I can’t take this anymore…I’m only 28yrs old. No Mother should ever experience…what I did. Is there anyone who can help me?

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Patricia May 18, 2013 at 6:36 pm

I never wanted a cesarean but my OB from the off insisted that with multiples…..I had to deliver by 38 weeks. I delivered my first daughter 13 years earlier at 42 1/2 weeks so I said induction would be necessary. My hormones were so far off the chart and I was so sick during my pregnancy, I was sure I couldn’t handle another pregnancy so I consented to a tubal ligation. It was the single most horrid decision of my life. Ultrasounds every 3 weeks to check our girls’ progress, a car accident at 29 weeks and feeling sick all the time………I did ask for an induction at 37 weeks. I couldn’t eat/drink/sleep and hardly breathe anymore by that time but a kindly doctor could have hospitalized me for the last 3 weeks but that would have cost the health care system too much money I guess. So our twin A turned transverse after a cath insert and things buzzed so quickly that before I could think about it…….a cesarean was done, my tubes….rather than being clamped so I could change my mind at a later date (which I did within literally days, maybe weeks) and I can never have more children and my girls both developed autism symptoms and one has died of brain cancer….costing the precious health care system hundreds of thousands MORE than if they had given me a 3 week sabbatical in a hospital bed and I had birthed naturally. My girls were unvaxed so it that didn’t give them autism, no family history of it but higher prevalence in cesarean births over natural births. My family doctor has been an amazing person who’s done everything he could to console our family but it’s no use………coming up on our 2 year anniversary of our daughter’s death and I’ve never healed from it. P.S. Took me WELL over a year to heal from that cesarean; OB was going to send me to a pain clinic for nerve block injections…….4th degree tearing at my first birthing and I healed in less than a week! Forever sad! :(

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Margaret May 18, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I had planned for a natural birth in the hospital supported by midwives. After pushing for 3 1/2 hours it was protocol for the midwife to call in an OB to evaluate the situation. I have always chosen female care providers & have never been comfortable with the idea of a man giving me a vaginal exam. The OB was a man. He came into the room, without my consent, put his hand in my vagina and said “Push to your butt!” He said this several times as I tried to “prove to him,” with his hand inside of me, that I could push my baby out. He decided I couldn’t & recommended a c-section. I agreed & he then cut my baby out of me. After that birth experience I was surprised when my husband & I were being intimate and he put his hand inside of me and I quickly and instinctually pushed him away. I was shocked by this connection, but realized right away that my reaction was a result of the sexual assault I had felt during the birth of my daughter. I think it’s really important that this is being talked about/acknowledged.

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Melissa May 18, 2013 at 7:12 pm

This topic makes me cringe in anger! Women in that state are so vulnerable and to be token advantage of is sickening and immoral. I was a victim to this I got an epidural after 20 hours of induced labor
(cholestasis) and was not numb on the left side. Went from a 5-9cm in 20 mins and cried to all the pain my nurse tried changing my position multiple times and decided to bring the anesthesiologist back in to give me another dose. My daughter arrived and I was pale and woozy from all the drugs. I knew she was hungry but they only gave me 5 mins to try and nurse and then I didn’t get to see her for the rest of the night. It really hurt me that not only did i not get the natural birth i wanted but i ended up not being able to breast feed her or do skin to skin they doped me up so much, and to this day I still am heart broken that she isn’t breast feed. I do feel robbed.

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Claire May 18, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Jessica, the doctors, nurses and midwives in the above stories have been quite happy to risk litigation by performing procedures without informed consent. You’re wrong when you say giving birth is the most dangerous thing a woman can do. So very wrong.

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Millie May 18, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Thank you so much for writing this incredible article… It perfectly captures how I felt when giving birth to my son and the the Drs kept wanting to do multiple cervical examinations – despite my protests at the excruciating pain and invasiveness. I really felt it affected my entire birthing process in a way I just couldn’t articulate. Have shed a few tears reading this but now feel stronger to speak up if this happens when I give birth again later this year. Now that I can name it, I will definitely shame it. Sending it to my partner and birthing support person right now!!! Thank you. So, so much xo

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Kathi May 19, 2013 at 7:53 am

Thank you for this. We need to get much more comfortable using the term “birth rape” because it happens far too often. Once you’ve experienced it or witnessed it, there is simply no other sufficient term for it. Love to the mamas who’ve experienced it, and to the activists working to revolutionize the birthing System.

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pammelah May 19, 2013 at 9:02 am

I’ve had seven deliveries. all of them different. But it was my second that made me a doula and an advocate for women. It was absolute birth rape and nearly cost my daughter her life. I am pregnant now with my ninth child and will bring all I have learned with me into the labour room. knowledge is power.

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Nico Doom May 19, 2013 at 11:46 am

I am the mom of 5 children and I had them all vaginally.I fought for my rights as a patient after some mistakes after my first pregnancies. I am sharing this now with you. You as the patient have the right to say no to anything and everything being done. You have the right to question anything they are doing.
My first delivery I had a set of twin girls. During active labor towards the end of delivery they did an episiotomy without asking and then when I was unable to deliver any further the doctor tried to insert a suction to place on the baby to help the delivery. I started thrashing on the bed in excruciating pain. The doctor used an injection of lidocaine to numb the area. It burned like they poured acid into my cervix and continued until after the delivery of both babies.
My second delivery a year and a half later went better because I was very vocal about the kind of care I wanted and it went great. I was allowed to walk the halls until right before delivery. I was allowed to manage my own pain. My doctor was leaving her practice so the following pregnancies were at different hospitals.
The third delivery did not go as well because the hospital that I had this baby in has a policy that who ever is on call does the delivery. So the doctor who was to do the delivery I had not met before. He was adamant that epidural be used and that was his policy. I would not consent to the use. I continually had him kicked out of the room until full dilation and then he was only let in for the delivery. I felt I had the right to express my feelings on this. I was very anger when I was told I couldn’t walk around before delivery because it would cause the baby’s heart rate to drop. I knew this wasn’t the case from delivery #2. I wasn’t able to do my own pain management techniques. Sometime during labor they gave me pit without discussing it with me. My contractions were awful and what I was told was it was a medicine to help delivery be less painful. At some point they increased the dose because I heard the nurse say to another nurse she increased the current dose on doctors orders.
My last delivery was the best and my biggest baby, I had switched hospitals and doctor for the pregnancy care.I talked with the doctor about my expectations and my previous experiences. I was not going to allow the previous mistakes to happen again for any reason. I was allowed to do my own pain management and it all went well. I delivered a healthy 9lb 7oz baby boy.

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