Birth rape: Is it real?

While I was expecting my son, I perused countless blogs, message boards, Web sites, and Facebook groups, trying to inform myself as much as possible about pregnancy and birth. When I first ran across the term “birth rape,” I had no mental image. What mental image do you even get out of that? I had no idea what it was or what to expect while reading up on the topic.

Birth rape isn’t easy to describe, as it differs with different women, depending on their experience. For some women, birth rape means they were forced into decisions regarding their child’s birth that they didn’t want to make. Birth rape for other mothers means that a procedure was performed upon them without their permission, sometimes blatantly against their will.

This, of course, isn’t rape by the letter of the law, but the term was coined by Janet Fraser after an emergency episiotomy was performed on her without her consent. Some people who believe women do experience traumatic childbirth but are not being purposely victimized will use the term birth trauma instead of birth rape.

Let’s talk about “natural birth” for a moment. There are a few different definitions of “natural birth,” but most sources would agree that it entails giving birth vaginally with little medical intervention. From my research, most mothers who have experienced what they call birth rape desired a natural birth. I’ve discovered that months or years later, many mothers are still traumatized by their birth experience.

As a mother whose birth plan went out the window, it’s difficult for me to understand this. I think that natural birth is a wonderful idea. I wanted my son’s birth to go as naturally as possible, but things ended up going almost opposite of what I’d planned due to complications. I will always regret that I wasn’t allowed to hold my baby boy and bond with him immediately after he was born, but I live with this regret knowing that he’s healthy and safe. That’s what is most important to me. Not my birth plan.

As a Soldier, it’s also difficult for me to understand how birth trauma exists, unless there is a death or near-death experience. Although I know in theory it is possible to suffer from PTSD without anything seriously horrifying happening to you…I’m skeptical. I can’t comprehend how childbirth could be equally horrifying to a bomb blast or being shot. But I am open to the possibility, and I’m genuinely curious and willing to learn.

What do you think? Is birth rape real? Are some women traumatized by medical intervention during childbirth? Is this trauma a symptom of postpartum depression or something of its own (PTSD)? Have you suffered from birth rape or birth trauma?

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4 Comments

  1. I’ve never thought about giving my birth experience a name. But I might call it a “birth rape”. 1st birth was a c-section b/c of a Frank Breech. 2nd, 3rd, and 4th were VBAC. 5th birth, I planned/wanted a natural childbirth at a birthing facility. At 39 weeks, the midwives and attending doc, told me that if I went pass the 41 week, they would not delivery my son via VBAC b/c of case studies. They ”forced” me to have another c-section since I was at my 42 week mark. Even after delivering 3 previous natural births. To this day, I still think about the day they used fear to get their results.
    ~ http://www.searchwithvonni.com

    1. Thanks for sharing your story! Since I’ve never had a c-section, I can’t imagine the pain the surgery must cause plus the difficult recovery. I can see how being forced to make that decision would be traumatic.

  2. My birth was lovely and went very much to plan. I had L in a birth center to avoid medical intervention.
    I’ve spoken to some women who felt very violated and forced in what happened to them. I think the word rape is extreme but I can see how it would be traumatic and even in some cases cause PTSD.
    Th goal is obviously a healthy baby..but when your birth is taken out of our hands and you look back with regret because it wasn’t necessary I’m sure that is upsetting. I can see how if someone was pressuring me or coming at me during labor it would have beer really stressful.
    A story that stuck with me that I would say was extremely traumatic was a woman in labor with her third child. She kept telling the nurse she was very far, and wanted her epidural…the nurse kept telling her she wasn’t. She kept asking to be checked. The nurse wouldn’t. When the husband pressed the nurse threatened to have him removed.
    Finally the woman said she felt like pushing would the nurse please check. She finally checked and the band measuring contractions had moved so they had been getting bad readings the whole time. Baby was crowning.
    Because the dr had gone home they called the er doctor. The nurse told her to get on all fours. The woman thought this was strange but did as told. The nurse then shoved her hand and upper arm into the woman and pushed the baby back up. Let me say that again. Pushed the baby back up!
    Because there was no dr there to deliver the baby. He baby was crowning…just a few pushes away.
    By the etime the dr arrived her body was in shock and labor and literally stopped. It took 3 more hours for her to deliver her baby.
    This didn’t even happen to me and I want to find this nurse and punch her in the face.
    I can’t en imagine how traumatic that must have been…..

    1. Wow! Okay, thanks for sharing that! That story makes me totally get it! I don’t know if I’d call it “rape” either, but if someone did that to me, I would definitely find it traumatic! And it must have been traumatic for the baby too! That just seems so dangerous! What if the cord was wrapped around his/her neck?? Ridiculous

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