Midwife who told teen to keep her legs closed during childbirth was so wrong

Mar 17, 2015 at 11:19 p.m. ET

The stigma that surrounds young parents and teenage mothers is still strong, and no doubt emotionally taxing, but one mother has faced neglect by her health-care worker as a result.

The New Zealand Human Rights Review Tribunal has heard a case against a community nurse, Natasha Thomson, who refused care to a teenage mother who gave birth at home in January of 2012.

Despite receiving five phone calls in one hour, the nurse refused assistance to the woman who described herself as being in "excruciating pain."

Thomson went on to dismiss the calls, saying, "Teenage mothers sometimes panic when labour starts."

Arriving after the actual birth of the child, Thomson discovered what she called a "tiny" tear, advising the young mother to be "ladylike" and keep her legs shut, failing to give the woman any clear instruction about how to care for the wound to avoid infection.

It is absolutely unfortunate to hear that a women wouldn't receive the care and support from a health-care officer or nurse during her pregnancy and that the care she did receive was so dismissive and disrespectful.

It's important for women, at any age or stage of life, to understand their legal rights before their birth and pregnancy. According to Homebirth Australia's bill of rights, a pregnant woman has "the right to choose how she gives birth and to be treated with dignity and consideration at all times so that she feels free to follow her instinctive reactions during birth." The health and well-being consumer guidelines also lay down the law about what health-care consumers or pregnant women have the right to receive:

  • A satisfactory service
  • Dignity and privacy
  • Adequate information
  • Due skill
  • Treatment in a professional manner
  • The right to redress if these measures aren't met

If you believe any of the above have been compromised, contact the health and well-being ombudsman in your state or territory.

Share your thoughts and opinions about dignity during childbirth in the comments section below.

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