'Luckily we had a torch': Contemporary birthing experiences of women in rural and remote NSW

Jennie Dietsch, Carmel Davies, Pamela Shackleton, Margaret Alston, Margaret McLeod

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Abstract

In one generation, the closure of maternity services in rural areas has caused women, health professionals working in maternity units and rural communities to reframe healthy pregnancy and childbirth into conditions that necessitate specialist anaesthetic and obstetric services. While childbirth is undeniably unpredictable in nature, the risks for healthy pregnant women and their newborns are small and potential rather than actual and even labour and birth at a tertiary referral centre can never remove all risk and uncertainty or guarantee a healthy mother and baby. The financial burden for maternity services has shifted from the public purse to individual women. At a time of incredible personal adjustment, women are separated from partners, children, family, community and country. Women have no choice but to travel long distances on dangerous roads for basic antenatal care and in late pregnancy or early labour to birth. Obstetric interventions with inherent risks such as induction of labour and elective caesarean are offered in an endeavour to reduce the distress caused by enforced isolation from all that comforts them. Some participants shared their experiences of racial discrimination and even their intense fear that their babies would be taken from them at the larger maternity unit where they birthed. The research concludes that it is time to stop maternity unit closures in rural NSW and to develop strategies and models of midwifery care that will enable the reopening of many that have been closed. As a matter of urgency, systems need to be introduced that will enable healthy pregnant women choices as to whether or not they labour and birth in their own rural communities.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWagga Wagga, Australia
PublisherCharles Sturt University
Number of pages118
ISBN (Print)9781864672053
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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