Lack of birthing choice angers Gladstone mums

A GROWING number of women believe they don't have enough options around birthing methods in Gladstone, with hospital policy not allowing some procedures.

And that isn't sitting well with Gladstone women who want to be in control of the births of their babies.

Gladstone doula Bree Hall - who is a mother of nine and an experienced homebirther - says women should be able to easily birth in their local hospital.

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"The policies have affected a lot of women and understandably they are upset," she said.

"To the women affected by the changes, I would say, it's your body and your baby. Of course you're allowed to decide what you want."

A Gladstone Hospital midwife, who asked not to be named, said the maternity ward was "critically understaffed". 

"We are coping, but only just," she said.

"We want the maternity ward to undergo an overhaul. None of us on staff enjoy telling women they can't give birth their way."

And while Mrs Hall said she wanted to encourage women to make informed and educated decisions, she is also strongly opposed to the 'my way or the highway' attitude of the hospital.

Hospital executive director Dr Nicki Murdock said policies and procedures were constantly being reviewed for Gladstone's maternity ward.

"We want to ensure the safest care is provided, resulting in the best possible outcomes for the young families of the Gladstone area," she said.

"We have recently recruited an additional specialist and are training more midwives to support the maternity service."

For the 12 months to January, 13, 978 babies were registered in Gladstone (that includes 548 born at the Gladstone Hospital), compared to 939 in Bundaberg and 932 in Rockhampton.

And almost 15% of pregnant Gladstone mothers were transferred to Rockhampton or Brisbane hospitals during that same period.

A group of women will meet at Gladstone Library on January 28 to discuss their concerns.

Anthony and Hayley Breed with their three children. Mrs Breed was devastated to learn she could not naturally deliver two-week-old Havana at Gladstone Hospital.
Anthony and Hayley Breed with their three children. Mrs Breed was devastated to learn she could not naturally deliver two-week-old Havana at Gladstone Hospital. T-Leaf Creative

Hospital policy takes expectant mum by surprise

PROCEDURES in place at Gladstone Hospital dictate women wanting to deliver their babies naturally after a previous caesarean birth must transfer to Rockhampton to do so.

The policy around VBACs (vaginal birth after caesarean) was introduced in December 2014, but it took expectant mum Hayley Breed - who was 41 weeks pregnant at the time - by surprise.

"They hadn't talked to me about it before I was one week overdue," she said.

"Essentially they are saying they'd rather cut open a woman's stomach than allow her to let nature take its course."

Mrs Breed said she wanted a natural delivery to avoid intervention and unnecessary medication.

Executive director at Gladstone Hospital Dr Nicki Murdock said it was only a temporary arrangement, and one that would allow the hospital time to build the service through recruiting staff.

"We expect this to take up to six months, and to impact on about seven to nine women a month," she said.

Dr Murdock said she would not apologise for putting the safety of mothers and babies first.

But Mrs Breed, who desperately wanted her child to be born in Gladstone, wants the hospital to support women to give birth the way they want to.

"I was devastated when they told me I would be transferred (to Rockhampton)," she said.

"I certainly didn't want to travel an hour and a half in a car while labouring. I feel for the women who have to."

So, Mrs Breed started looking for someone who would support her to give birth naturally, in her home town. She decided at the last minute to switch to the private system.

She was accepted at the short notice, and her health fund did cover obstetrics.

Biloela Hospital, despite handling one-eighth of the number of babies, remains equipped to conduct VBACs.