'A scene from a horror movie': 9 mothers speak out about alleged mistreatment during childbirth
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
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.
"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."
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.
"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 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.
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."
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."
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.
"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?"
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.'"
Almost five years later, Megan Rich says she still suffers the psychological effects of the birth of her daughter in B.C.
"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."
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."