Conference breakfast with Dr Vijay Roach from the Gidget Foundation was sensational! It was so enlightening to listen to a doctor share their personal story of his family experience of perinatal mental illness from both a husbands and a doctors point of view. Dr Vijay reminded me of my own obestrician, who I still can recall visiting me in the mental health ward in his jeans and a tshirt, visiting me to see how I was going even though as doctor his duties were completed. This presentation by Dr Vijay was like an apology speech to me from the health professionals for what I have been through during my pregnancy, my traumatic birth expereince and my episode of postpartum psychosis. In tears, I gave Dr Vijay a huge hug of gratitude as a thank you on behalf of all consumers.
Different people have different perspectives including those in the birth industry. The birth industry is all about the things we ‘must’ do; natural birth, not drink alcohol, breast feed or demand feed and it goes on. Consumers are in the best position to understand what they experience. The Gidget Foundation is run by consumers and the Marce Society should be overrun by consumers (certainly not the case from what I saw at the 2016 conference). Illness works for health professionals, as an authority, understanding big words, knowing what is best for you even though they have never listened to your story, they disempower us with the words they speak.
Doctors will interpret the patient in the first 18 seconds of an appointment. Do women have a choice? Can women decline an exam? Refuse a test? Which woman wants to be the difficult patient? Doctors fail to recognise our feelings, beliefs, values, history, stories. What if the doctors don’t know all the information?
A male gynaecologist is no more disadvantaged, not limited by gender, as they too have the lens to make decisions, to listen actively in planning, pregnancy, trauma, birth to see the world through the woman’s lens. At no point in time did someone ask how we felt. We forget that women are people too, expect to do everything right, the pressure on pregnancy and mothers is huge.
We need to acknowledge what women give to us all. What doctors see as reality as correct is not right. Doctors communicate the fear yet missed the point. What happened to me? I need to understand why? We felt disempowered, no choice, had to do what the doctor said. Doctors hadn’t deliberately tried to harm but by participating in her trauma as health professionals we need to examine ourselves.
Think about the words we use, the posters of motherhood bliss in hospital wards. The gutless implications of the words we use. We do medicalise pregnancy and birth yet no one talks about the wonder of becoming parents and the human inside the womb. We forget the joy of existence. If we miss that, what else is existing? Consumers are people. If we are going to shift the paradigm we don’t need to disempower the consumer, we need their input. The true gift of the health professional is to empower those who seek their help. Its powerful to do no harm and to care; maybe we can make a difference. If we are going to change the paradigm we need to make the shift.
Gidget Breakfast Session – From Illness to Wellness; shifting the paradigm in perinatal mental health care, Dr Vijay Roach, International Marce Society Conference 2016.