CBC News has heard from dozens of women from across Canada who say they were mistreated by doctors and nurses in the delivery room. Here are nine of their stories. 

Josmi Bansal

When Josmi Bansal was eight months pregnant earlier this year, her baby died in the womb. She had to give birth to her stillborn child in an Ottawa hospital.

Josmi Bansal

'One of my greatest fears is being forced to return to that hospital and risk being treated by the same people again.' (Submitted by Josmi Bansal)

"The attending doctor on call was extremely aggressive and rude, and told me, while I was labouring and grieving with my family present, that he might need to maim my son's corpse to deliver him vaginally," Bansal said in an email. "He even went so far as to say that he might have to cut my son's head off.

"At that point, I was so enraged that someone would think it was OK to talk like that to a mother who has just lost her baby at eight months pregnant. The way a doctor speaks to a patient matters."

"One of my greatest fears is being forced to return to that hospital and risk being treated by the same people again."

Raylene Hrechka

Before Raylene Hrechka gave birth to her first child in British Columbia in 2015, she asked her family physician to add to her file that she's a survivor of sexual assault so the medical team handling her delivery would treat her with sensitivity.

She isn't sure whether the team saw this information, but she didn't receive the kind of treatment she was hoping for. She says the doctor was rough when putting a fetal heart monitor on her unborn child's head.

"The nurse started to scold me for not relaxing and lying still," Hrechka said in an email. "One of the comments made was, 'This would be a lot easier if you co-operated.' While this verbal abuse was happening, my legs were being held down as the procedure continued. Once completed, to add insult to injury, the doctor thanked the nurse for her help. It was the opposite of anything respectful."

Raylene Hrechka

Raylene Hrechka says her nurse scolded her for not relaxing and lying still. (Submitted by Raylene Hrechka)

"I had done all this preparation, got the doctor to put it in the file and then I still totally felt re-traumatized. I had already been in labour for so long, I already just felt so broken and there was no consent and there were people messing around in a very private space and it hurt as well. I guess not having any communication around it just made me feel like something was being done to my body against my interest."

Marie McMahon

Marie McMahon works in mental health and says she suffered symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after delivering her third child in 2012 at a hospital in southern Ontario.

She says immediately after her baby was born, her doctor tried to manually remove her placenta without her consent or sufficient anethesia.

"Next thing I know, an entire arm, up to her elbow, shoots into my vagina and uterus without any warning. I screamed at her to stop," McMahon said in an email. "I felt every inch of my placenta being ripped out of my uterus."

Josée McMahon

Marie McMahon says immediately after she gave birth, the doctor tried to manually remove the placenta without her consent or sufficient anesthesia. (Submitted by Marie McMahon)

She says a second similar procedure was done hours later, and that time a nurse pinned her down while she yelled "No!" and demanded they stop.

"I had a lot of nightmares, and visual flashbacks of her arm with blood running down to her elbow," McMahon said. "I didn't like sleeping, when I would sleep it was when these thoughts would pop into my brain."

She said the experience deterred her from seeking regular medical care.

"If I needed to go to the hospital for something, I tried to put it off as long as possible. For example, I had a bladder infection; I didn't go into the hospital until it turned into a kidney infection. I just put up with the pain because I was terrified of doctors and hospitals."

Kristina Sweeney

More than a year after giving birth in Calgary, Kristina Sweeney says she still suffers PTSD symptoms from the experience.

Kristina Sweeney

Kristina Sweeney says she suffers from PTSD symptoms because of how she was treated during childbirth. (Submitted by Kristina Sweeney)

She says doctors didn't respond quickly enough when it was clear the anesthetic wasn't fully effective during her C-section.

"When the first cut happened, I screamed out in pain and nobody moved, nobody said anything," Sweeney said.

"The surgery just continued, they didn't try to intervene, they didn't seem concerned. They just kept rubbing my head and telling me to focus on my breathing. I was literally jumping on the table and she didn't seem concerned about that whatsoever, but I could see the nurses' faces and they seemed horrified that this was going on and I screamed the entire time."

She was eventually given ketamine and could no longer see straight.

"As a woman who always wanted to be a mother and dreamed about the day your child was born. To have it go wrong or not as planned is one thing, but have it be a scene from a horror movie, that is life-altering."

Amanda Bentley

Amanda Bentley

'Thinking back on it, it was the worst possible situation of my life,' Amanda Bentley says. (Submitted by Amanda Bentley)

"Thinking back on it, it was the worst possible situation of my life," said Amanda Bentley, who gave birth to her son this year in the Greater Toronto Area. "The most upsetting thing for me was that was the birth of my only child and I will never get that back."

Bentley says she was subjected to disrespectful and hostile treatment — including offhand comments about her weight — before, during and after delivery.

She says a nurse performed a painful vaginal exam without her consent. During her aftercare, she says nurses handled her so roughly her breasts were left covered in bruises.

Jessica Edgar

Jessica Edgar had her baby in 2013 in Nova Scotia. She says she still has trouble trusting doctors after hers performed an episiotomy without her consent.

Jessica Edgar

Jessica Edgar says she has trouble trusting doctors after hers performed an episiotomy without her consent. (Submitted by Jessica Edgar)

"I was pushing and the doctor said, 'I am going to do an episiotomy.' I said, 'No, I don't want one.' He said, 'I have to, the baby is not coming and you are going to tear anyways.' And he just cut me. I did not say yes, I didn't say OK, I didn't say anything, he just said that and then he cut.

"I am sure that he was under the assumption that because he said he had to that it was OK, but I never said yes, I actually screamed no."

"At the end of the day, a doctor can say, 'I did it because the baby was in danger' or 'I did it because the mother was in danger' and who is anyone to really question that?"

Melissa Murray

Melissa Murray says her experience giving birth to her first child at a Saskatchewan hospital in 2008 led to a panic attack during the birth of her second child in 2016.

Melissa Murray

Melissa Murray says her family physician laughed at her birth plan. (Submitted by Melissa Murray)

She says the disrespectful treatment during her first pregnancy began with her family physician laughing at her birth plan. It continued during labour, she says, when a nurse scolded her for pushing when the doctor wasn't there yet.

"She just yelled at me, 'What are you doing pushing? I told you not to push. Your doctor isn't here yet, what are you doing? I can't believe you're so stupid.'"

Megan Rich

Almost five years later, Megan Rich says she still suffers the psychological effects of the birth of her daughter in B.C.

Her daughter was delivered with the help of forceps, which was extremely painful. Rich says she wasn't properly informed about the procedure and its risks or any alternatives.

Megan Rich

Megan Rich says she still has anxiety about seeing doctors and doesn't go for some routine checkups like pap smears. (Submitted by Megan Rich)

"I felt like I didn't have a choice, the way it was presented to me. I felt like it was a choice between her life and her dying."

She still questions whether it was necessary and wishes she'd been given the opportunity to provide informed consent.

"I felt like they should have explained it to me and I should have been the one to decide if it was a good thing or not."

She says she suffered panic attacks and bouts of uncontrollable crying after the delivery. She still has anxiety about seeing doctors and doesn't go for some routine checkups like pap smears.

She says before the birth of her daughter, she was thinking of having two children, but that's changed.  

"I am at the point physically and psychologically where I don't feel like I have a choice, do I want another baby or not? It feels like the choice has already been made for me."

Polina Gorodetskaia

Nurse Polina Gorodetskaia gave birth to her daughter last year in a Toronto hospital.


'I would give birth in the sidewalk of the street before I go to a hospital,' Polina Gorodetskaia says. (Submitted by Polina Gorodetskaia)

She says when she questioned the number of cervical exams during her labour, her doctor said, "If you want to call the shots you may as well not take up a hospital bed."

She says the experience was dehumanizing.

"I felt like I was treated not like a person, but just a body birthing a child, and that was it. I would never go and give birth in a hospital again. I would give birth in the sidewalk of the street before I go to a hospital."