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Speaking up for better birth trauma outcomes

Published 05/04/2022

Leanne Murphy’s powerful story of birth trauma and recovery has influenced hundreds of maternity staff and students across Victoria.

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Leanne Murphy

During the birth of her second child, Leanne experienced a fourth-degree perineal tear, and spent five years recovering from the physical and psychological trauma.

She had six surgeries, an ileostomy bag and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Once she felt well enough, she was ready to share her story.

Leanne was a consumer representative on Safer Care Victoria’s Better Births for Women improvement project and has been a guest speaker in a variety of medical and educational settings.

By sharing her experiences, she hopes to improve the lives of others.

"I can’t change what happened to me and our family. By talking about it openly and honestly, it might change the enormity of the experience for another family."

"If I tell my story to a hundred people, I have a chance. Hopefully someone will take one moment of my talk away and plant a seed," Leanne said.

Leanne is also a consumer representative for Western Health and Northern Health. She wants to share her story to not only change the system, but also to encourage other women to share their experiences.

"People don’t like to talk about their birth trauma. They often feel they’re alone and that they’re the only one who’s going through it," Leanne said.

"And the reason they don’t talk about it is because they haven’t heard it anywhere."

Much to her surprise, a huge benefit of being a consumer was the ability to regain trust in the medical profession. She’s now able to navigate the health system with a little more trust knowing she has a network of supportive people surrounding her.

"Being a consumer massively impacted my perception of the medical system and the people in it, which is no small feat! It helped me regain my trust with doctors, nurses and midwives," she said.

Leanne’s story will prompt many ideas for change among Victorian health professionals. The change she’d like to see for Victorian mums who have experienced birth trauma is practical, relevant post-discharge support.

"Birth trauma is an intensely personal experience – I’d like to see Mums immediately connected to mental health support as soon as they recognise they’re struggling or have trauma," Leanne said.

"You can also make it exponentially better for the families who have experienced birth trauma at home by providing relevant support – help with meals, cooking and cleaning."

Leanne has just qualified as a counsellor and hopes to use her lived experience to directly support other women and families.

"I'm passionate about helping women who have experienced birth trauma as well as the children and families who have also been impacted by the experience of having a loved one in hospital."

"I hope my counselling reduces the time it would have otherwise taken to recover from trauma and gives them back some quality time."

Read about Leanne’s children’s book ‘When Mummy went to hospital’ on her website.

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