The Mother’s Tale - Women’s Experiences of Maternity Care in Australia

From 1 July 2020 to 30 October 2020, Maternal Health Matters Inc. hosted a survey about women’s experiences of childbirth. Responses were collected using an online questionnaire taken from the 2013 Dignity in Childbirth survey conducted by Birthrights, the UK human rights in childbirth charity, though they have no involvement with this survey or analysis of the data.

The Mother’s Tale - Women’s Experiences of Maternity Care in Australia - highlights the impact the system is having on women as they become mothers, revealing that many women experience less than optimal maternity care, impacting their health and wellbeing.   

  • One in five women felt that they received disrespectful care   
  • One in five women felt that the birth negatively affected their relationship with their baby. 
  • Thirty percent of women believed that their experience had a negative effect on how they felt about themselves.   
  • This negative impact rose closer to fifty percent of respondents who had an instrumental birth or caesarean sections 
  • Only 54% of women have the birth they wanted. 

Women reported a loss of autonomy, a loss of dignity, being threatened, being treated as a child, having their concerns dismissed, being dehumanised, being ignored and receiving no response to requests for help.  

As part of the survey, women were asked How could maternity care be improved?   Four themes emerged:  

  • Provide respectful maternity care;  
  • Provide continuity of care, preferably with a known midwife;  
  • Improve postnatal care; and  
  • Provide information on care options.  

In response to the survey findings Maternal Health Matters has developed the Maternal Health Toolbox to inform women on respectful maternity care and their maternity care options.   

The toolbox includes the Pregnancy Care Checklist based on the Australian Clinical Practice Guidelines Pregnancy Care.  These Guidelines were developed by government to ensure that women are provided consistent, high quality, respectful antenatal care. The Guidelines are intended for use by all health professionals who contribute to pregnancy care.  While Government intends to develop a consumer version of the guidelines, it is yet to be published.    

Maternal Health Matters believes that pregnant women will benefit from having this information available to them. With so much resting on a woman’s shoulders, it is vital she is given the information she needs to be informed about her maternity care - care that affects her wellbeing and/or her ability to care for her baby.  Therefore as an interim measure we have developed The Pregnancy Care Checklist based on the guidelines for use during antenatal care so that women can achieve optimal care – that is the right care at the right time – not too much too soon or too little too late.  Using the checklist will give women confidence that they are receiving appropriate care.





Beyond ANU

Date posted

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Updated:  7 November 2012/Responsible Officer:  Convenor, Gender Institute/Page Contact:  Web manager, Gender Institute