Mum's call to ban forceps during childbirth after she suffered 'lifelong injuries'

Tom Flanagan and Jessica Maggio

A Brisbane mother has called for forceps to be banned after she was left with life-changing injuries during childbirth.

Amy Dawes, 37, originally from Sydney, was left traumatised after giving birth to her first child, Eliyah, when doctors chose to remove her baby using the metal instrument.

Ms Dawes had her heart set on a natural child birth in 2013 but after difficulties where Eliyah "wasn't coming", a doctor opted for an alternative method.

"I wanted my baby to have the best start to life and I really believed a vaginal birth would be the way to do that," she told Yahoo7.

The mother-of-two said doctors were forced into a decision between opting for forceps or a caesarean, a choice she said proved devastating to her wellbeing.

"I knew nothing of the risks of forceps but all the risks of a caesarean," she said.

Amy Dawes gave birth to her daughter Eliya with the aid of forceps. Source: Supplied/ Amy Dawes

"They don’t talk about forceps during prenatal or antenatal care. All it said was that they offer no risk to baby, but it didn’t mention what it does to women and how it affects the bonding with your child."

Ms Dawes said Eliya's birth was a long and painful process. She suffered extensive bleeding and third degree tears.

Even though the initial impact of the birth took its toll on Ms Dawes, including five days in hospital reliant on a catheter, it was the lasting effects that impacted her most.

"I didn’t realise the extent of the injuries," she admitted.

"About 16 months post-partum, I sustained a prolapse – a bilateral evulsion where the pelvic floor muscle was torn off the bone, leaving little structural support for other organs, bladder and uterus.

"I was told to avoid lifting my baby. I was told that I would no longer be doing sports which was a massive part of life. It was debilitating. I felt old before my time. It had completely altered my perspective on life."

Ms Dawes developed serious emotional and physical problems following the birth. Source: Supplied/ Amy Dawes

Five years on and Ms Dawes is adamant her life didn't have to go down this path.

"My baby wasn’t in distress, it wasn’t that she uregently needed to come out. He could have performed a caesarean," she said.

"Had I known the risk, I would have been more open minded about a c-section.

"My basic way of life is completely altered. You just feel completely broken and scared of intimacy. I can’t run after my child, I feel like I have a life with limitations that I never thought imagined.”

Ms Dawes' harrowing ordeal has had such a devastating effect on her life she felt the need to prevent other women going through the same trauma or at the very least help them through it.

She co-founded the Australasian Birth Trauma Association support group in her bid to change the perception and understanding on forceps.

"I didn’t know the risk. Many women have no idea. The risk of this happening is greatly increased with forceps," she said.

Ms Dawes says there are better options to using forceps. Source: Getty

"Forewarning is more important than anything. If we start to inform women, they aren’t suddenly going to be choosing ceaseran births, but they’re going to be in a much better position mentally so they can make informed decisions."

Even though she admitted it would be difficult to impose, Ms Dawes wants Australia, especially Victoria and NSW where it's most common, to reavaluate the use of forceps and look to banning the instrument during childbirth.

"We have to look at those countries not using them like Denmark, which hasn’t used them for 15 years and they just don’t have these problems," she said.

Hans Peter Dietz, a professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Sydney Medical School, agrees with Ms Dawes, saying the lasting damage caused is relatively unknown.

"Forceps are a great instrument to use for the obstetrician but it's very much at the cost of the woman and sometimes the baby," he told the ABC.

Australian Medical Association president Michael Gannon said it will be difficult to eliminate forcep use due to hospital's desire to reduce caesarean births.

The mother-of-two says she struggles to lead a normal life with her daughter Eliya, now 4. Source: Supplied/ Amy Dawes

"We've got this ludicrous situation where area health services and state health departments and hospital managers are telling obstetricians to reduce their caesarean section rate for some ideological purpose," Dr Gannon said.

An alternative proposed to forceps has been the Omni cup – a handheld pump which can pull the baby out with far less damage. It has so far been used successfully in some Queensland hospitals but older medical staff have proven to be skeptical of the device.

"When you've got people who have grown up with forceps they're always a bit suspicious of other things," Janet Vacca, wife of now deceased Queensland doctor Aldo Vacca, who created the device, told ABC.