Reflections on our inaugural Australasian Birth Trauma Conference

Posted in: Birth trauma

by Dr Bronwyn Leigh

As the Director of the Centre for Perinatal Psychology, it was a pleasure to open our inaugural Australasian Birth Trauma Conference standing alongside Amy Dawes, Executive Director of our co-host organisation, the Australasian Birth Trauma Association. Amy and I worked diligently, curating a program to unite multidisciplinary professionals in integrated, collaborative birth trauma care.

Our stellar line-up of speakers reflected the themes of uniting health professionals, and their presentations explored the multifaceted dimensions of physical and psychological birth trauma.  Naturally there was a focus on maternal experience, and the experiences of fathers and infants were also dedicated themes throughout the conference day – having a baby is a family matter and birth experiences impact the family not an individual in isolation.

Every speaker was a highlight, uniquely contributing to our gestalt of birth trauma experience and its impact. Key take-away messages from our presenters included:

  • birth trauma can negatively impact multiple relationships: with oneself, with one’s partner, with one’s baby;
  • fathers can be affected by birth experience; fathers can experience trauma from the birth experience;
  • birth experiences can negatively impact the couple relationship;
  • relationship difficulties can be repaired – we can be hopeful about this, but psychological intervention often required to assist;
  • the pelvic floor can be damaged in labour and birth, postnatal pelvic physiotherapy rehab can help (and the wish for this to be universally accessible at 6-weeks, as it is in France!)

So many more highlights, including seeing computational modelling of the muscles of the pelvic region and pelvic floor was so interesting – thanks Dr Jenny Kruger from the University of Auckland.

The day was punctuated by three deeply moving accounts of lived experience.  Gratitude is extended to TJ Tirzah Jaanai Ryan, Clayton Schmidt and Amy Dawes, all of whom courageously reminded us why we were in the room – birth experiences matter.

The panel discussion richly answered some questions from multiple points of view.  Discussion flowed into the cocktail event and it was so pleasing to hear the themes of the day continue in the minds and conversations of delegates and presenters.

Our main conference day was supported by a pre-conference workshop on counselling skills for birth trauma recovery, facilitated by Amanda Donnet and Dr Rachel Bushing. Amanda and Rach provided such a wealth of knowledge and helpful frameworks to hold in mind when supporting those following a birth trauma experience.

We are deeply grateful to McInnes Wilson Lawyers for supporting our event.  Thank you for providing an incredible location and space for us to gather.  Thank you for nourishing us with exquisite food.  Thank you for documenting our day with photos.  Thank you for being so attentive to our needs – very much appreciated.

For both Amy and I, conceiving, gestating and delivering our first conference in birth trauma has been a career highlight.  Thank you to those who supported our vision and joined us as we explored the harrowing aspects of bringing a baby into the world.  We hope your practice will be better for it.

Please join us in Sydney in 2021 for our 2nd biennial Australasian Birth Trauma Conference!

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About the Author

Dr Bronwyn Leigh is a clinical psychologist, perinatal and infant clinician and early parenting consultant. She is the Director of the Centre for Perinatal Psychology. Bronwyn specialises in the psychological aspects of becoming a parent, the emotional development of infants, and parent-infant relationships. She is dedicated to supporting health professionals in their work with parents and infants.

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