Emotional Wellbeing

Poor Mum in Labour Asked for Epidural 3 Times and Was Repeatedly Dismissed

Women have been asking for pain relief during labour for many years. Yet recently, their voices are not being heard, with many women saying they’re being denied an epidural or are having them significantly delayed during the birthing process.

Many women have felt their midwives deliberately delayed their requests for an epidural or did not give them access to all the pain relief options, leaving them traumatised.

Woman traumatised after epidural denied during childbirth

After experiencing nearly 12 hours of labour, Samantha Burgess says she could no longer handle the pain. She had been dealing with the intense contractions brought on by inducing her labour and needed pain relief.

She asked for an epidural, which is an injection of anaesthetic used to block pain from contractions, and she was met with resistance from the staff at Maitland Hospital in regional NSW.

Instead of an epidural, the midwife suggested she have a bath to help reduce her pain. Then, the second time she requested it, they gave her nitrous oxide gas, which wasn’t successful. When she asked again, it was met with further resistance.

“[The midwife] looked a bit put off, like, ‘No, I don’t want to give it to you,'” Samantha told ABC News Australia.

When her midwife did an internal exam, Samantha asked her to stop because of the pain. She didn’t stop. Samantha screamed for her to take her hand out and give her an epidural.

“She kept her hand inside me. I just felt violated.”

The midwife said it was too late for an epidural, but Samantha insisted. It was 40 minutes before she finally received one.

Samantha says that although she finally got the pain relief she requested, she was left traumatised. This trauma then developed into postpartum depression and rage. When she complained to supervisors at the hospital, they sent two administrators to be by her bedside.

“They just made me feel stupid, like I was complaining for no reason. I was just in tears the whole time.”

Myths surrounding epidural use

46% of women in Australia receive an epidural during birth. However, this rate is less than other countries such as France who’s rate is at 85%.

Of the 80% of Australian women who ask for pain relief, most receive nitrous oxide gas. This could be due to the many myths that surround the use of epidurals.

  • Myth #1: Women who receive them are more likely to need a caesarean section
  • Myth #2: An epidural will prevent pushing when the time comes
  • Myth #3: It can be too late for an epidural

However, these myths have been busted, with experts stating that modern epidural techniques use diluted local anaesthetic solutions and are delivered in a different way.

They say epidurals now only blunt sensory nerves and not the motor nerves used for pushing. And, although it takes some time to get consent and set up, experts say it can still be administered in the later parts of labour. Best practice is to offer an epidural within half an hour of a request.

epidural for pregnant women in childbirth
Epidurals are being delayed or even denied for pregnant women. Source: Bigstock

Inquiry into birth trauma and maternity care

Maitland Hospital sent a full apology to Samantha Burgess for the delay of the epidural and acknowledged the distress caused from her experience. Yet this is part of a bigger problem around women’s birthing experience and subsequent birth trauma.

NSW Health is conducting a study into maternity care experiences, consulting more than 18,000 members of the public and clinicians, and the NSW Government is holding a birth trauma inquiry.

Samantha says that although she received an apology, it doesn’t replace her negative birthing experience of having her first child.

“It feels like I lost a part of myself when I gave birth,” she told ABC News Australia.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please contact Lifeline Australia.

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Avatar of Kylie Baracz

As a busy writer and mama of two little wildlings, Kylie knows what it's like to juggle All The Things. When she's not politely ushering out small children from her Zoom calls, her favourite place is snuggled on the couch with her family and a (probably lukewarm!) cuppa.

1 Comment

  1. Avatar of Blossom

    Unless the system has been changed you can inhale too much gas

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