Mum remembers stillborn baby being taken 'callously'

Tracey Nearmy/AAP PHOTOS

One mother went to hospital in agony three times before her baby died, another watched her stillborn daughter taken away in a foam box, and one young woman was refused pain relief after an emergency caesarean.

"Women have been silently screaming for a decade and now they can be heard," clinical midwife Fiona Reid told a NSW parliamentary inquiry into birth trauma on Thursday.

Several women fronted the inquiry in Wollongong, baring vulnerable moments of terror and humiliation at the hands of the state's hospital system and their lingering grief.

Amanda Macaulay repeatedly went to a hospital in terrible pain before her son was stillborn in April 2014.

During one visit doctors told her to take a painkiller and return in five days, but she was rushed to hospital suffering a catastrophic uterine rupture 36 hours later.

"When my son was stillborn, I nearly lost my own life and I required a hysterectomy," Ms Macaulay said.

"I feel that my concerns in the week leading up to this rupture were not listened to adequately."

Carly Griffin said she was forced to get out of bed less than eight hours after an emergency C-section, while she was crying and blood was running down her legs.

"I was called a junkie by an OB (obstetrician), I was told by midwives that I was showing drug-seeking behaviour and I was denied pain relief on more than one occasion," Ms Griffin said.

"I was told, 'You can't possibly be in that much pain'.

"These comments are not only hurtful, but they're embarrassing and I was left to suffer until I was discharged two days later, while also trying to care for my son as a first-time mother."

Through tears, Naomi Bowden remembered the stillbirth of her daughter Bella in November 2009.

Ms Bowden said she was rudely rushed into a small hospital room to see Bella and was told police were coming to take the infant's body to the coroner.

After she watched her baby taken away in a cold foam box, Ms Bowden had to return to the maternity unit surrounded by mothers and their new babies.

"Why? My baby had been so callously taken away," she said.

The inquiry, which has received 4000 submissions from patients, doctors and midwives around Australia, is examining the prevalence and effects of birth trauma.

Ms Reid, a consultant who has worked in urban and regional areas for three decades, said midwifery group practices should be the dominant form of maternity care to ensure continuity for patients.

Mothers should be offered debriefings after traumatic births, she said.

"It's an act of erasure to be told the only important part of the birth experience is the end, the live baby and the live mother."

Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District chief executive Margot Mains apologised to patients whose care did not meet expectations.

"I acknowledge that we need to do absolutely everything we can to ensure that birth trauma does not occur in our hospitals," Ms Mains said.

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