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Why new mums feel let down by maternity services

HUNDREDS of Irish women feel "badly let down by maternity services" every year and many feel they "undergo procedures and interventions" that are not necessary.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children invited relative stakeholders to submit their views in the wake of the death of 31-year-old Savita Halappanavar.

Mrs Halappanavar died in University College Hospital Galway last October 28 from septicemia, seven days after being admitted with back pain to its maternity unit. She was 17 weeks pregnant and found to be miscarrying.


Her husband Praveen has claimed that she asked on several occasions for a termination but was refused.

The Association for Improvements in Maternity Services Ireland (AIMSI) was asked to write a detailed report ahead of the meetings.

AIMSI is contacted by hundreds of women who say there was a lack of "collaboration" between pregnant women and maternity service providers.

In the scathing report they described how women struggled to access mental health services and many felt in a vulnerable position after certain unplanned procedures during their birthing experience.

"It has been the experience of AIMSI that women are not always listened to in terms of their reproductive health and their maternity care, often to the profound detriment of the woman and her child," the report outlines.

"Most of these harrowing stories involve women undergoing procedures and interventions, that are often unnecessary."

Co-author of the report Barbara Western, who is AIMSI's information and support officer, said that some women said they were traumatised by certain procedures to induce labour.

Ms Western said many women were distressed after procedures such as an episiotomy -- which speeds delivery and to prevent tearing. Others reported shock at the use of the hormone oxytoxin which stimulates contractions.

"It happens in Ireland because it has the Active Management of Labour system in place. This is where doctors control a woman's labour by initiating interventions that are sometimes unnecessary."

Ms Western said women often desperately needed access to mental health services but didn't know where to turn.

"The birth trauma that a lot of women have suffered is incredible -- ante-natal depression, postpartum, postnatal," she said.

In last week's report AIMSI also points out that figures from the Confidential Maternal Death Enquiry Report 2009-2011 in Ireland there were 25 deaths.

At least two were suicides and six were direct maternal deaths and 17 other unexplained, indirect or coincidental maternal deaths. "It may never be known which deaths were inevitable and which were avoidable," AIMSI added.