Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Bullying Culture

As a woman approaches her birth she should be able to look forward to the wonderful experience of becoming a mother. Being pregnant and giving birth should be a happy and exciting time. However there is the ever pervading culture of bullying that is seeping into midwifery and the hospital system. I have observed this bullying culture over the last 19 years getting worse and worse. As a midwife in private practice I constantly faced with being bullied and I have developed mechanisms that help me battle this negative behaviour that has become inherent in the hospital system . As a midwife I find this behaviour totally unacceptable. But what I find worse is the women employing my midwifery services are also faced with overt bullying and often hostility when choosing care that does not fit with hospital policy. Women need to be nurtured and supported in their choices. They should not be bullied.

What prompted me to blog on bullying was an article I read in the recent journal of the Australian College of Midwives "Women and Birth" Vol 23 Issue 2 June 2010 - on page 53 is an article called "You can drop dead": Midwives bullying women. This is an article that reports on an unexpected finding from a large research study of women who moved away from their rural or remote homes to a large city to give birth. This article explores incidents in which a small number of midwives are reported as behaving in an "uncaring, cold, callous, abusive and aggressive" manner to these women. Repeated threats to involve the department of community services (DOCS) was a common thread used by these midwives. This behaviour by midwives is unacceptable. These women are amongst the most vulnerable in our community - all their support networks are often hundreds of miles away. I feel sad and heavy hearted after reading this article. But also I feel more determined to campaign for the rights of women. I personally will do everything I can to combat bullying behaviour and I ask you to challenge anyone who attempts to bully pregnant women or new mothers.