"‘For weeks I ran through my birth over and over in my head wanting to change things, wanting to know more information to make a better decision."
Who are we?
Welcome to the Australasian Birth Trauma Association (ABTA). ABTA was established in 2016 to support women and their families who are suffering postnatally from physical and /or psychological trauma resulting from the birth process.
Aspects of the birth process, such as internal examinations, severe bleeding, emergency caesarean section, unwell baby, can be terrifying at the time and and trigger ongoing psychological problems, such as traumatic stress disorder (such as PTSD), anxiety and depression.
Recent research demonstrates that physical injury incurred during vaginal delivery can have similarly serious consequences, both physically and psychologically, and that such injuries are more common than previously acknowledged.
The woman’s partner may also experience psychological problems, including depression and stress disorder.
The Australasian Birth Trauma Association (ABTA) seeks to assist women through their own journey after a traumatic birth by providing them with the information, resources, and support required to manage their symptoms while raising a family, participating in the workforce and being active in their community. Key activities include:
- Raising awareness of physical and psychological birth trauma and the significant consequences for the woman and her family
- Working with obstetricians, physiotherapists, mental health experts, midwives and urogynaecologists to prevent or address these injuries more effectively.
- Supporting affected women and families.
We believe that the emotional needs of the mother are equally as important as a healthy baby. In the early days of motherhood, it is not uncommon for women to feel isolated and alone. We believe that more work needs to be done to understand, and in turn better support, the emotional and physical needs, particularly of the mother affected by birth trauma. ABTA works alongside health professionals who are interested in gaining a greater understanding of the needs of these women and thus help effect change to current practice.
ABTA philosophy is also based on the belief that the immediate family of women experiencing post-natal birth trauma (both fathers and children) should be included in early and appropriate intervention to effectively identify and treat the condition. We believe this can be achieved by:
- advocating an Australia-wide emphasis on pre & postnatal psychological and physical wellbeing
- the expansion of effective partnerships with health professionals and government bodies
- instigating and supporting research to help advise health professionals on current and successful approaches to identifying and handling birth trauma
- valuing and pledging to improve the long-term wellbeing of the mother and families of those affected by birth trauma.
ABTA was co-founded by Professor Hans Peter Dietz, Elizabeth Skinner and Amy Dawes.
Professor Peter Dietz
Peter Dietz is a father of two teenage sons and married to Susanne, a midwife, who works with him both clinically and in research. He is also an obstetrician and gynaecologist and a RANZCOG-certified subspecialist in Urogynaecology. Professor Dietz is an internationally renowned expert in pelvic floor imaging and the prevention and treatment of maternal pelvic floor trauma related to childbirth. He has over 30 years’ experience in studying pelvic organ support structures and is recognised for his pioneering research in the field.
Every day he sees the consequences of birth trauma and its life-altering effects on mind and body. The most frustrating aspect of his clinical work is that most doctors and midwives still do not understand how seriously mothers can be affected, either physically or mentally, by traumatic childbirth.
As a result, Professor Dietz works tirelessly towards raising awareness of these consequences and driving change in order to reduce negative outcomes. His work recognises that loss of dignity, hostile attitudes of clinicians and friends, feelings of ‘not being heard’, or the absence of informed consent to medical procedures contribute to psychological compromise during the postnatal period. The sad truth is that many women feel alone or unsupported in their early days of motherhood, especially after traumatic birth experiences. Professor Dietz’ vision is to change the way these women are treated and increase the support for them as postpartum mothers.
Amy is the mother of two beautiful daughters. She had her first child in 2013 and like many women, she did not identify that she was suffering from birth trauma until she was 16 months postpartum. It was then she was diagnosed with a bilateral levator ani avulsion (pelvic floor muscle torn off the bone) that eventually resulted in prolapse.
As a result, Amy understands first-hand how it feels to have a compromised quality of life and this fuels her desire to help other women. She is passionate about raising awareness of birth trauma by speaking out about her life altering injuries sustained through childbirth. She is also using her journey as a map to assist women who find themselves in a similar situation, and to educate health professionals to better identify those mothers most at risk and enable them to provide the best support available.
Amy’s vision is to break down the stigma attached to pelvic floor dysfunction and empower women to feel comfortable speaking out in order to continue driving change for those women deeply affected by birth trauma (#breakthesilence).
Elizabeth is a mother to two grown up boys. She is a midwife, registered nurse, child and family clinician, lecturer and researcher with over 25 years’ experience working with mothers, babies and their families.
She is passionate about raising awareness of birth trauma and its consequences and is currently doing a PhD on the ‘psychological consequences of somatic vaginal births’. In addition to Professor Dietz’s findings, Liz’s research has identified an urgent need for women to find a place where they can feel understood and get the help they need to address the after effects of a traumatic delivery. Her vision is to provide a safe space for affected women and their families to find support whilst also providing a direct source of objective information for clinicians.
Voluntary Board Members
We are proud to introduce the experts who have volunteered to be ABTA board members.
Professor Bryanne Barnett AM
Professor Barnett is a child and family psychiatrist with a particular interest in early intervention, perinatal and early childhood mental health. Her doctoral thesis studied anxiety and its effects on mothers and their infants. This research included the first attachment study in Australia. Professor Barnett holds a conjoint professorial appointment with the School of Psychiatry at the UNSW. She is also a foundation member and past President of the Australian Association for Infant Mental Health, the Australian Society for Psychosocial Obstetrics and Gynaecology, and both the International and Australasian Marcé Societies. In 2007 she was awarded Membership of the Order of Australia in recognition of her service to families and the profession. In 2016 she received a RANZCP College Citation.
Dr Jennifer Kruger
Dr Jennifer Kruger’s research focus is maternal/child health and she leads the Pelvic Floor Research group at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland. Where they use a multi-disciplinary approach to pelvic floor mechanics and its relationship to childbirth and pelvic floor disorders, including pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence. Dr Kruger’s background is in nursing and midwifery, so she is able to recognise the need for evidence based research to better inform women of their choices in childbirth for optimal outcomes.