Birth Rape Is Real


woman alone on benchPeople who blame the victim in rape cases are instantly rebuked, and counseling is suggested for the women so they can cope, find ways to work through the ordeal and the post-traumatic stress, and have support.

No one would dream of telling a woman who was talking about her feelings about her rape, "Stop complaining and just be grateful that you're okay." And yet for as many as one in every twenty women who suffer from PTSD from birth trauma and birth rape, that's exactly what they're told: "Shut up and just be grateful you and your baby are healthy."

We are treating mothers in ways that we wouldn't dream of treating rape victims, though often the trauma and lasting effects are quite similar.

One woman talks about how her birth ended up resulting in her severe PTSD, from a cascade of abuses of her body without her consent and despite her objections. She was told she had postpartum depression, but didn't feel that was quite right. A psychologist pointed to PTSD -- she was relieving the scene in her head constantly, having flashbacks and crying spells, feeling stress when she thought about it, trying to redo it in her head repeatedly.

This kind of thing happens all the time. Like I said above, as many as one in every twenty women had such a negative birth experience that they are left with post-traumatic stress disorder, and in more severe cases, are able to honestly use the term "Birth Rape." After all, the definition of rape is unwanted, forceful sexual actions against a person, correct? But people react strongly against women who claim to have PTSD or birth rape trauma. For some reason, people insult women who have traumatic experiences by telling them they're exaggerating or shouldn't feel that way.

The intent was not likely malicious; you solicited the services of the doctor willingly; it is not sexual; it denigrates ‘real’ rape; you got a healthy baby at the end of it; you should have said ‘No’ more clearly; you should have been more educated; be glad you’re alive -- women used to die in childbirth all the time; if you didn’t want hands or instruments up your vagina, you shouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place; it was for your own good.

These are all things told to women who are suffering after their birth and find the phrase "birth rape" to be fitting for their own personal experience. As one brilliant woman said, they're telling women "it's not RAPE rape ..." as if that explains it.

But another brilliant woman also shows that the same argument is used against women who claim to be raped by their spouse or significant other -- that it's not the same, it's not rape, it's her fault. What about when the definition of rape extended to being raped WITH something, such as items? People said then too that it's not rape ... as if somehow being assaulted with an object is somehow less traumatic? Where people get off telling a victim that what SHE feels is incorrect and that THEY can better define her experience for her, I'll never understand, and it makes me angry that people even try.

If you can't understand what kind of things can cause this type of feeling, let me give some examples:

  • During a cervical check, my midwife suddenly announced she was going to do a membrane sweep. I said no, but she did it anyway, and I started yelling, "No no OW OW OW!" and was kicking up the bed to get away from her and the pain, but she ignored me.
  • Her midwife rammed a hand up into her vagina to manually dilate her cervix. Even as Lynsey squirmed and screamed, “No! Get off of me!” while dealing with the excruciating pain of another monster contraction, she was laughed at and mocked for being a “bigger baby than the one she was trying to push out.” Desperate for the attack to stop, she lashed out and tried to kick the woman away, only for another midwife to firmly hold her feet down.
  • She inserted her hand into her uterus and without any warning or offer of anaesthetic and began scrapping blood clots from the side of the uterus. “She reached deep up inside and started scooping them out while pressing really hard on my uterus. The resident insisted I was feeling sensation and not pain." She entered very roughly over and over again. The experience was so painful that she experienced flashbacks to an earlier sexual assault.

And those aren't even some of the worst. A healthy mother and a healthy baby are the outcome everyone hopes for, but there is so much more to it than just physical health. The mother's MENTAL health is incredibly important and absolutely should not be dismissed. To tell a woman that she should be grateful because she has a healthy baby is to tell her to shut up and suffer in silence. She IS grateful for her child, but is now trying to deal with postpartum normal emotions while sorting out emotions from an abusive situation. We cannot keep dismissing what happens to women, and sweep it under the rug, and blame the victim.

Have you experienced birth trauma? Have you found people are unwilling to accept your traumatic experience?


Image via Lachlan Hardy/Flickr

childbirth, postpartum recovery, tests & procedures, emotions


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betha... bethany169

I have to be honest, when I first heard the term, before I was even a mom, I think I was in denial that such awful things could even happen to women while they were giving birth.  But after hearing stories like the ones you quote, and worse, I don't see how anyone can not call it rape, or differentiate between birth rape and 'rape rape', as someone did in your article.  Being violated by someone else's body part or an instrument, whether there is malicious intent or not, whether the rapist is a man or a woman, doctor or midwife, is rape, plain and simple.  My heart goes out to women who have experienced this. 


Shannon Piper

When I think of how my positive birth experiences have done so much to build my confidence and give me a sense of empowerment, it breaks my heart to think of women being degraded and mistreated during birth. Women should look back at birth with a feeling of satisfaction and wonder at our amazing bodies, not feeling guilty and traumatized. How sad!

Madel... MadelynMc

This is interesting. I had postpartum hemorrhaging and the nurses had to do something similar to the last experience you described. It was extremely painful and scary but I don't really have any bad feelings about it (aside from the fact that it hurt like hell) because I know it was necessary to basically save my life.

Anyway, after searching some stuff, I came to the conclusion that the post-partum hemorrhage was most likely due to my induction with pitocin. I had never considered this possibility. I also uncovered tons of stories of women who had pitocin increased to dangerous levels without (or even against) their consent and basically felt abused in that way by the doctors/nurses, especially after it resulted in serious complications.

This is kind of unrelated to this post, and maybe I have just missed other posts on this topic, but it seems like although a lot of people harp on induction, I have yet to read anything about pitocin and postpartum hemorrhage. I literally had no idea.

Stefa... Stefanie83

I have not experienced anything close to this, but I want all the women who have been victimized like this to know that there are many many women out here who do support them and do acknowledge their pain! 

Reading Marsden Wagner's book just horrified me.

Pishyah Pishyah

As a person who was molested as a child, raped, and then experienced birth rape, the last effected me the most. Birth rape is real. It doesn't have to be a touch in the vaginal region, either. When you do not want to be touched and have things done to you it effects you similarly.

Histo... HistoryMamaX3

I believe their are varying degrees of trauma... and the examples you posted are great examples of the term you are using. Sadly, there are women out there that feel a tiny bit slighted in the outcome and cry foul and make it difficult for others to get the attention the deserve. There is a difference in having something forced upon you even when you say no- and the people that go along for the ride and learn about their options later.

nonmember avatar Allboys

Yes I experienced an assault during labor and during my second labor I experienced trauma. Thankfully for me my husband was present for everything that occurred during the second labor and was just as outraged and traumatized as I was. In fact he was the one who needed to talk about what happened over and over again to anyone who would listen. He was as supportive as any one person could possibly be and any time I got all spacey he would listen to me. There was never a time he dismissed what happened and because he was so adamant that I had been wronged other people were supportive. I can also say that because of that with my last two births he was willing to aggressively fight anyone who did not respect my wishes and who was not following the correct protocol. My experience with all of that is one of the reasons I believe fathers need to be more involved and informed about birth. In case anything goes wrong they are comfortable enough to stand up for their spouse.

madfoot madfoot

I certainly think this business of laughing off women's pain and telling them they're babies when they are screaming in pain has GOT to be addressed. I am so heartily sick of midwives treating my pain as some kind of pouty temper tantrum -- I am ready to banish all midwives from my birth experience, they have been that damaging to me. Do I feel raped by my bad birth experience? No, because the midwife ended up apologizing -- but I am angry about it still.

Lissete Diaz

oh lord reading those quotes... i believe! poor women!!!

toria... toriandgrace

Honestly, I don't consider those (terrible, traumatic) experiences as sexual. They are medical and I believe that they are medical misconduct and I would bring forth legal action to ensure that that sort of misbehavior did not happen again. I am not attempting to discount the pain and trauma that these women have gone through and I can see how PTSD could occur afterward, but I personally wouldn't put the word rape on the situation, just as a midwife who inappropriately ignores a patients' request is not a sex offender. There are patient rights for a reason and need to be requested though.

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