A License to Rape

*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.


  • pammelah

    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.

  • Nico Doom

    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.

  • Brandee

    This is how I felt with my 3rd baby my son the other 2 where vaginal everything fine nothing crazy but with my 3rd everything began normal I was contracting took my time to go the hospital by the time I did I was 5cm when the nurse checked me she said baby is very high still so I won’t break your water 10 mins later the doctor showed up and said I’m going to break your water …I’m mad at my self till this day 3 years later on why I didn’t say NO the nurse said he was still high so NO but I didn’t when she broke my water It caused a prolapsed cord which caused the most terrifying moment in my life an emergency c-section and my son almost died she came back and said its because you had to much fluid but I knew that it was her fault and mine for not telling her to leave me alone !! 🙁

  • Lauren Stauber

    This was my experience, too. After my water broke, and I did not go into labor “fast enough”, I was induced through a series of interventions. When I wasn’t dilating “fast enough”, the midwives “stripped” my cervix to try quicken the dilation. The first time, I was shocked by how painful it was. More painful than the most painful back labor contraction. My whole body went into a sort of shock. They did this to me about 4 times (maybe 3, maybe 5) over the course of my long and what they called “unproductive” labor. Each time they stripped me, I shook from head to toe. I screamed. I cried. I felt myself disassociate. And each time, it would take me time to relax again. To open. To find that zone of surrender that is birth. The last time they wanted to strip me, I begged for about fifteen minutes for them not to do it. But I was pressured into it, convinced that somehow that was the only way for things to proceed. After that last strip, and being told I was only 4 and a half centimeters, I lost all my strength to go on. And I begged for the epidural. 60 hours after my water broke, I had an emergency C-section because I had developed an infection. I am convinced that these invasive and horribly wrong feeling procedures are part of why I developed that infection. I’ve also dealt with extreme pain with intercourse for years after the birth of my son, because the muscles of my vagina locked themselves up into a contraction that I intuit is related to the experience of this painful procedure. I have little by little worked through this tightness, gradually coaxing these muscles to relax again, slowly, painfully, patiently, with the incredible support of my partner. But it has not been easy, and four years later I am still not completely recovered. In the scheme of things, the blessing of being my son’s mama far outweighs any of this trauma. And I would go through it all over again to be his mama. But sometimes I feel angry. And sometimes I do feel that I was, in some way, violated in one of the most vulnerable, personal, and sacred parts of my body. It has been difficult to integrate it all, because I ultimately know that the midwives had my best interest at heart, and they are good women. But when I read this post, the truth of my own wounds said hello. I guess I need to tell my story, too. That is part of the healing. <3

    Birth Without Fear is such a valuable forum. Thank you for being here!

  • Caro

    I sit here reading this and feel like my heart is breaking while simultaneously feeling sick to my stomach that women go through this kind of hell. I implore anyone reading this – find a loving and educated midwife and birth at home. Birth your babies surrounded by peace and love.

  • Liana W.

    My heart breaks for the women who have had to experience this. We have been blessed to have not gone through such. I showed this to my husband and we read the comments together; he was quite angry! While we have a lot of compassion and empathy for what these women have gone through, my husband couldn’t get over one question: where are the husbands/coaches/doulas who are supposed to protect these women during this vulnerable time? My husband is not violent man, by any means, but he stated very clearly that if any of our nurses/doctors had not explained to us everything that they wanted to do before doing it, or responded correctly to “no”, there would have been immediate physical and, later, legal repercussions.

    Again, we haven’t had to experience this horror, so we’re not judging these women or their families since we do not know the whole of their circumstances or understand the lasting pain that goes with it; we are just genuinely concerned about where the support team was.

  • Rob

    Ok I know I will get my head ripped off but I am not sure I would classify this as rape. In fact I think you are doing a great harm to women who have been raped. These experiences were horrible and traumatic I totally agree. And many of these doctors should lose their license but I don’t think it is the same as someone acting maliciously to inflict harm or rape someone. I cocky over confident or negligent doctor is not the same thing as a rapist. When you are giving birth there is always going to be some type of physical examination involving your genitals and granted they should not be going against a mothers wish or disregarding her birthing plan but it is not the same thing is going in to have your thumb examined and the doctor is putting his hands in your vagina. I am sorry this happened to these women and I understand being traumatized but I wouldn’t put them in a rape support group just yet. I imagine if I were held down and raped or taking advantage of by a predator while I was unconscious I would be a little resentful of the lady in there sharing her labor stories. Words are powerful and if we just start applying them to everything then they lose their potency. Yes, if someone touches you or puts things inside of you against your wishes that is a violation and abuse but let’s not pretend that a doctor doing something in the course of labor or an examination (yes they should stop if hey are hurting you or you request them to) is similar to my boss sticking his hands in my pants during a business meeting….the intent and purpose is clearly different. If people are really passionate about this then lets educate doctors on better practices when dealing with women in labor. I think most doctors see themselves as the “experts” and so they view what they decide, and do, as the “right” way to handle things and that needs to change but I don’t believe more these doctors acted in a malicious manner intent on hurting or violating women. If we start labeling everything as rape, then people take it less serious (even more so than they already do) and they are less likely to take it seriously.

    • Nico

      I think until you experience something like this during a procedure of someone in the medical field that you trust has your best interest at heart you will not understand. For a men they isn’t any procedure out there that equals this.

      As for women who have been raped I have experience this also. A violation is a violation.
      During delivery you are vulnerable.

    • Crystal_B

      I was sexually assaulted as a teenager, and while I wouldn’t label my first birth as ‘rape,’ either – because I consented to what was done to me, I can tell you that what I suffered at the hands of medical professionals was worse than the sexual assault, and it was made far worse by everyone’s responses to it. When I was sexually assaulted, my parents and friends took my side and empathized with me and allowed me to grieve. When I was threatened and lied to and mistreated and treated as an object in the hospital, it was “my fault” and I “had a healthy baby” and I “should just get over it.”

    • spaceranger

      As a woman who has been raped (regular ol’ rape, not birth rape) I will say that as I read this article it was VERY EASY for me to understand why the word rape makes sense to describe these traumatic experiences. I felt in no way like application of the word rape to describe birth rape in any way made the word rape less powerful or meaningful. And actually as I was reading the article I kept thinking how hard it would be to understand (and effectively deal with) the emotions that inevitably come along with a trauma if the trauma isn’t being identified as trauma-using the word rape makes it clear that there is trauma and lots of support and help healing is needed. So. I think if “birth rape” seems like the right terminology to a woman who has been violated and traumatized during birth–we should take it seriously and not tell her that it wasn’t actually that bad.

    • Helene

      I am a r*pe survivor, and I assure you I am a competent human being and do not need you to speak on my behalf. Birth rape is real and horrible and traumatic – at least as traumatic as ‘standard’ rape. It is also about power and a man being in control and his will being more important than yours.

    • Brooke

      Actually Rob,

      All pelvic exams were optional with my midwives. Before each exam (probably less than five times during my entire pregnancy and birth) they either genuinely asked if it was okay to touch me, or I requested them to check me.

      It should never, ever, be assumed that touching someone is okay.

    • Kasey

      Its also worth mentioning that this should be taken just as seriously as “normal” rape. It is not an inferior crime and doesnt take away from the seriousness of other forms of rape – it is a rape and its all bad stuff to be taken seriously.

    • tatanya

      “Rapere” is latin for “to take” , so to take without consent is a pretty good definition for rape and in the medical world we would like it be “informed consent”. And believe me it hurts either way. And this is a silent epidemic. We have accepted episiotomy and circumcision without ever calling them what it is “genital mutilation”and while it may not be as dangerous or painful as unmedicated genital mutilation. . We are definitely mutilating the genitals from their original intended purpose.

  • Erin Winegar

    When our 3rd baby decided to make her appearance, our doctor was not on call. Our doctors colleague showed up, checked to see how far I was dialated, and asked if I had ever had an episiotomy. I said no. He informed me that he wanted to give me an episiotomy (I wasn’t even close to pushing at this point). I said no. He persisted. Finally, I had it. I told him if he cut me, I was going to take the same pair of scissors he cut me with, and I was going to cut his pee-pee! Guess what?! No more talk of episiotomy!

    I don’t think “rape” is the correct term to use in these type of situations being mentioned. The women are not being sexually harmed, even though their sex organs (vagina, uterus…) are being touched. “Rape” in childbirth, is when a man FORCES himself upon a woman immediatly after she has given birth. Otherwise, their right to have the kind of birth they are entitled to, however, has been stripped from them. This is birth trauma, or violation of birth rights, not rape.

  • mandi

    What the writer means is the feelings you are left with, are very similar. Being a woman who was raped the biggest question in my mind was, Why did my words have no power, why did I protest, say no and yell, yet it still happened? You feel worthless when you feel violated, and you feel powerless when your words are given no meaning, when you’re told “it’s okay, just be quiet”

    Its not ok. When a person doesn’t want something done to their body, it shouldn’t happen.

  • Charity

    I see how someone could compare this to rape. And reading stories like these makes me so grateful to have had the birth experience I had. It was in no way perfect (c-section) and could have been considered traumatic, but thanks to all involved (l&d nurse, obgyn), it wasn’t. My only knowledge of childbirth going in was my sister’s experiences, she delivered each of my nephews drug free and very quickly with wonderful doctors. I had not researched at all, and just “went with the flow” for the most part. I was terrified that I wouldn’t go through with it if I went to classes or read any articles (like that’s even possible). Now that I’ve been through it, it doesn’t scare me as much, and next time I want to do everything possible to deliver naturally. Reading this blog has made me feel that it IS possible, and my body was created to do it! I guess I got off topic, but I am so sorry to any of you if you had this type experience. A woman’s body should be treated with respect even through childbirth. And thank you, BWF, for this blog. It has given me hope.

  • Helga Zoe

    I don’t have any children at the moment, but I want to take a moment to thank every one of you who commented on this for opening my eyes one step further about childbirth. I’m waiting to have a baby with my spouse as I want to have all the facts. And I think this is the most inspiring story I’ve read on the internet this year. Please keep sharing all you thoughts. I now know that if I do have to have an in-hospital birth that I will make sure I speak up for myself, and make sure all my family attending can speak up for me if I can not.


  • Caroline

    It was my first birth and I was in the hospital in labor and my doctor thought my water needed to be broken. I was so scared and I begged her, crying, to please not stick that crochet needle inside of me. I asked her what exactly had to be done and if it hurt. She didn’t even have the heart to calmly explain to me what she was doing. Even though I objected and was crying, she rolled her eyes at me and broke my water very quickly…. When she did this, she had brought a male doctor I had never met before into my room. That was my first birth, my second one I had at home and I have no complaints about that one. I can’t for the life of me even remember that doctor’s name. She’s the type that gives other doctors a bad name… makes you wait forever, shows up late, rolls her eyes, no bedside manner, forgets everything you’ve ever talked about as if you’re complete strangers, gives condescending facial expressions, dry condescending laugh. I hate that bitch. Sorry for my language.

  • Sarah

    I knew what I wanted in my birth, I wasn’t “uneducated” or niave. Whatever you wanna call it. But when it came time to give birth, everything I wanted went out the window. I don’t talk about it to anyone but it was very traumatic for me..even when they put my son on my chest I wasn’t even sure he was really mine and I told my husband to take him. I wanted a water birth but I was told it would be too much paperwork and they were too busy for that. I wanted to walk around but I was forced to lie on my back and told to do as they said or my son could die. There were jokes made about home births and comparing them to birthing in a barn. They repeatedly checked to see how far dialated I was even when I screamed in pain and begged them to stop. And when my body started to push I was told to stop because the doctor wasnt ready and my baby would die if I didn’t wait. That was birth rape and I am still upset about it.

  • Carrie

    I’m so glad that midwives were included in this. With my first birth I thought by just hiring a midwife I would be avoiding the stories above. I was very wrong and was extremely violated at my homebirth. It was atrocious and I could still start shaking thinking about it and that was 6 years ago. Thankfully, another homebirth midwife counselled me after but I’ve often felt alone in my experience. People treated me as if since it was a home birth with a midwife, it was all in my head. Sorry, it’s on video, it was not just in my head. This is a tough subject to talk about but I’m glad it’s starting to get attention because hopefully that will bring about change. I went on to have two more births that were fantastic with wonderful midwives and that also helped me heal.

  • L&D Nurse

    This article sheds light on some very awful situations however, rape is a very strong word. Ask women who have actually been sexually raped if they’re okay with being compared to the birth of a child, no matter what happened. I’m sure they’ll disagree.

  • HV

    I was also threatened with the epidural or c-section with my first. I look back and realized I was so stupid and I shouldn’t of let my nurses control me like that. I had a nurse who would come in every 15 minutes asking if I wanted the epidural yet. She would do the most painful cervical exams even when I was screaming for her to stop. My OB stripped my membranes at only 37 weeks without telling me! Every time I look back to that delivery I just cry. I was so lucky I chose to educate myself with my second child and I was able to have a beautiful healing water birth. Seriously ladies and husbands TAKE A STAND FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR WOMAN. Do your research! We can all change birth if we stand together!

  • Jennifer

    After my son was born prematurely, the doctor who delivered him went into my uterus manually to literally rip out the rest of my placenta that hadn’t come out during the birth. It was very disconcerting but I don’t remember any resulting pain and assumed that it didn’t come out on its own due to the fact that at 33 weeks and three days, it was still firmly rooted in there. And that’s how I pictured it: like pulling weeds out of your garden. I was alone with him in the delivery room; there may have been a nurse there too but after 5 years now I don’t remember. My husband had left to go with the NICU team so I didn’t have his support or an objective observer to offer an opinion whether this should/shouldn’t be done. I liked and trusted my doctor and I’ve since maintained a good relationship with him but after reading the posts here I’m left wondering if I’m one of the women this was done to. I don’t remember if I was given a clear-cut answer as to why that had to be done in that manner. Do you have any thoughts or ideas about this? I was not traumatized by that alone. Just having my son born so early was a completely traumatizing and surreal experience.

  • Andrea

    These stories are awful to hear.

    But please don’t use the word rape. It takes away from the women who have been cornered in a dark alley and sodomized by a stranger. It takes away from children victims who have been repeatedly raped for years by a family member.

    What you are describing is birth trauma. Or even malpractice, if you will.

    But please don’t use rape as a buzzword to garner attention for your fight. It’s despicable, disrespectful and disgusting.

  • Rachael

    Reading this makes me so grateful for 2 people: my husband (my birth partner) who LISTENED to me and UNDERSTOOD what I wanted when I was SANE, and one of my 2 midwives who LISTENED to my husband and ENFORCED my wishes when I was in the depths of hard posterior labour and not sane. I had one midwife pressuring me to allow her to do an internal exam. I’d had 2 internals with my first baby – both horrifically painful and the (very respectful) Dr stopped immediately because he deemed the pain outweighed the benefit of knowing. Through my 2nd, 3rd and 4th labours I was INSISTANT that I did not want internals unless there were serious concerns for the baby’s welfare. So when, with my 5th, my second midwife started putting pressure on me to allow her to do an internal (asking multiple times after initially being told no) I was grateful for my husband who became my voice when I doubted myself and my first midwife who heard him and firmly put an end to that idea. In fact, I might even go send that midwife a card. 🙂

  • Brieanah

    I was given a post dates induction, Tuesday afternoon a “cervical balloon” was inserted which was painful and I did not sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time that night, the following morning a midwife came in told me to have a shower and get ready to go to the birthing suit. Once there the doctors came in they took the balloon out, did an internal, broke my water and he said that they could feel something like the cord. The female doctor then checked, she couldn’t feel it.
    Sintocin started at 8.30am, I was feeling fantastic walking and moving on the ball. 12pm came and the doctor checked 4cm dialated. They then gave me gas.
    Worst thing possible, instantly felt ill, emotional and light headed. 3 pm came and babies heart rate was dropping at each contraction. Fear set in. The doctor made me lay down on the bed and gave me pethadine.
    Once that kicked in I broke down in tears and just wanted to go home I kept saying “I can’t do this” and I remember feeling so helpless.
    5pm and still no change, at this point I was on the highest setting of sintocin and they forced me to have the epidural. After 3 painful attempts and 45 minutes it was in place. And I do not care what any one tells me, it was not helping with the contractions at all. The doctors had me laying on my side and I was in my mind “ready to push”. After another internal they noticed that my baby wasn’t pushing on the front of the cervix and that was why I wasn’t dialating further.
    At 7 pm they came in and said due to the heart rate dropping so low every contracting they were turning the sintocin off and were doing an emergency c-section as soon as the theater was free.
    At 8 they wheeled me off to surgical. I remember being freezing and shaking violently, telling my Fiancé I loved him over and over again because I felt like I was dying. At 8.31 pm they pulled Olivia out. Her cord was wrapped three times around her neck and her placenta was completely calcified and black, not the pretty red/pink you’d expect. I’d told them for weeks that I felt something was wrong and this was my proof.
    They bought her over to me after her obs. She was so perfect and tiny and I wanted to cry with joy but I was going into shock, bleeding internally. They took another hour to stitch me back together. My fiancé said they were “welding” my insides to stop the bleeding. I lost consciousness after vomiting and then woke up in recovery, where I stayed until 10pm.
    My poor baby girl hadn’t been fed yet. At 10.30 I fed my baby for the first time.
    We were both alive. We made it. Despite all the horrible things we had been through that day, we pushed through it.
    I do not condone the unnatural interventions that doctors or midwives preform in anyway. I wish for a more natural and empowering way of “induction” not the harsh and undignified way it’s done today.
    Could not agree more with the article that doctors and midwives need to back off and just listen to the mother. We know when there’s something wrong. We know how to give birth.

  • michal

    You need to learn the definition of rape before using it against someone trying to help you give birth. As a true rape victim I take great offense to this insensitive and ignorant application of the term rape. At least use a dictionary. None of these care givers had any sexual motivations. Slandering someone trying to save you and your babies life and calling them sexual molesters is unforgivable.

    • melissa

      One of Webster’s definitions of rape is “to seize or take by force”. While birth rape is not sexual, it does take mothers’ choices from them when they are forced into procedures without their consent. This article us not calling the doctors sexual molesters, but the women’s bodies were violated nonetheless.

  • Jess

    Can someone fill me in on reporting the stripping of membranes w out consent ? This was done to me and until recently I had no idea what had been done. I was fortunate to have birthed vaginally after being bullied into epidural. I was not as educated then as I am now. However two years later it still haunts me that my baby didn’t come when she was ready but when the doctor was.

  • Victoria

    As a student midwife, as a baby student midwife no less, I intervened when one of the doctors came in, made no eye contact with the woman in labour, simply red the paperwork, put his gloves on and spoke to the midwife as if he was a senior mechanic and this was a complicated part of engine. I looked to the very senior midwife who I had utmost respect for. So used to this treatment of women she didn’t even flinch. He was about to put his hand into this woman without discussion or consent and I felt alarms going off. I admit I get maternal towards ‘my mothers’, but this really upset me. I halted the ‘almost’ incident by standing in the way of him and the woman’s vagina. I asked him how he delicately discussed the pros and cons of the examination and how he gained informed consent. He woke up out of his ‘mechanic’ approach and engaged with the woman as a human being. I still remember the look on that lady’s face. I stayed with her until she birthed her beautiful baby girl. She was a strong woman I’ll tell you that for nothing! In the hospital environment though, something is lost. Some sphere of control is expected to be breached and I hate that. Now I specifilise attending to breastmilkfeeding mothers. I still hear that women struggling are not given instruction or support, merely their breasts and babies are manhandled without consent. The whole attitude needs to change.

  • Kayla

    Wow. That is a whole new perspective for me! The doctor I had deliver my first baby was horrible! He did things that were unessesary- despite all the midwives objecting! It was his last shift before going on holidays and I was holding him up. He was so rough and full on that it even put my mother into shock! I was begging him to stop just so I could have a few seconds break and just to breath but he just wouldn’t listen :’-( Its putting me in tears just thinking about it. Being my first baby I so wish I had read this beforehand and known my rights. I’m praying baby #2 will be different! But at least this time I will know where I stand and will be better informed! Thanks for the article!

  • Julie

    Melissa’s birth experience as described here is almost identical to my first birth. I was relived to have avoided cesarean, but it was not a positive experience in terms of respect for me as a capable, laboring mother. Thank you so much for sharing and helping me to acknowledge what felt wrong about that birth experience. I also became an advocate for better birth and ultimately had a natural birth with midwives who treated me with the utmost respect.

  • Brittany

    While I agree that the instances here are completely traumatizing and unacceptable, I don’t think that using the term “birth rape” is appropriate or fitting. I think these examples are abuse, abuse of power, lack of consent and mis-communication and misunderstanding. I am in no way minimizing anyone’s experiences, just to be clear, I just don’t think that term is acceptable.

    I feel very sad for the victims and truly hope they can find some healing and peace.

  • Tanya

    While I wholeheartedly agree with 90% of what you said- please, please change your line about “PPD has NOTHING to do with hormones…” because it does. I definitely believe this to be true after going through it twice. To state otherwise is ignorant and could offer only further pain to mothers who are going through it. I completely agree that a traumatic birth increases your chance BIG time of getting PPD. Thanks for writing this important and vital article and touching on what too many of us mothers have gone through.

  • ShonD

    I was given a forced, violent cervical check by a labor nurse. Also, I need to point out that most of the bad experiences I’ve had overall with healthcare providers, were all female. Hospitals staff labor wards with female nurses only; there is a reason for that. They seem to assume female workers can get away with forcing their hand up a woman’s vagina, whereas, if a man did the same thing it would be considered more threatening. Well, I’m sorry, its WRONG either way whether its a male nurse or a female one. I had a male OB/GYN and he was great, but it was the labor nurse who assaulted me and he wasn’t around when that happened. So not his fault at all. Also, women tend to be rougher with women patients in general. Had a female nurse at another facility grab me by the arm; another one ordered me into an exam room, left the door wide open and ordered me to remove all my clothes, even though people were walking up and down the hallway and could have seen me naked. I had to insist she close the door and give me privacy. She literally rolled her eyes when I stated my request.

    I’d like to know what anyone else thinks about staffing maternity wards with only female healthcare workers. To me, it seems like a sinister trend.

  • Kasey

    So Im going to start off by saying that this is so terrifying Im thinking twice about even getting pregnant. All of you say speak up, know your rights – but when this assault/rape happens speaking up seems pretty useless.

    Ive already been informed because of my own health I cant do a home birth. I have to be in a hospital. What am I supposed to do?

    • Esther

      Kasey, find a midwife who will support you. I was also told i “couldn’t” have a home birth because of my health. But it was a lie! I’ve now had two!! First midwife didn’t know what she was doing and neither did i and i experienced birth abuse. Second time round i had a homely hospital birth with a different midwife. Was amazing!. No one except my midwife and my mum. I laboured at home, went in at the last minute haha. It was the next best thing to home. I was listened to, had no exams or anything. Just was left to have my baby. I don’t know where you live and if you can be at hospital without a doctor but don’t be afraid! 😀 this is birth WITHOUT FEAR. tell your partner what you want and trust him to not back down from fighting for you. You can do it!!

  • Olea

    I am so so sorry for all the Mamas who have gone through this. As a doula who has often walked away from hospital births feeling like I’ve just held a mothers hand through a rape (it is a horrible feeling), I would like to add one thing to the list. In those situations where a mother is experiencing unrelenting pain and violent trauma and the only words she can find is ‘no!’ and ‘stop!’ it is important for her to have someone (a doula or partner) who can make her voice louder and say: she is asking you to stop or she does not consent to this. It is very hard for a mother to make an argument for herself in these situations (though shouting no! should be enough). Sadly mothers voices are often ignored even if she does find the words and she needs advocates for what she wants in that difficult moment.

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