Pregnant, young and ignored by a system meant to care

A 19-year-old woman's fears about her pregnancy were dismissed with comments from midwives such as "they just keep getting younger" in the weeks before she gave birth to a stillborn daughter.

Larissa Palamara told a NSW parliamentary inquiry into birth trauma she was so ill in the final weeks of her pregnancy in 1997 she did not have the energy to stand in the shower.

"I was consistently losing weight at every check-up," Ms Palamara told the committee on Monday.

"Instead of being offered testing or having my concerns validated, I was told it was because I was a teenager who was trying to protect my bikini body."

A newborn baby's foot
The NSW inquiry into birth trauma has received 4000 submissions from throughout Australia.

Ms Palamara gave birth to her stillborn daughter weeks after repeatedly telling a midwife about her declining health and reduced foetal movements.

"The midwife ... made it very clear to me from the first meeting that her own children were older than me," she said.

"'They just keep getting younger' was her claim ... that became a constant theme of any question I asked or concern I raised."

Almost three decades later, Ms Palamara shared her lingering torment over being sedated when she asked about her baby after waking from an emergency caesarean section.

"I was the only person in the room that didn't know she was already gone," she said. 

"That was taken from me."

The inquiry, which has received submissions from 4000 people including patients, doctors, midwives and experts around Australia, has been examining the prevalence and effects of birth trauma.

Witnesses have told of life-threatening experiences, birth injuries, non-consensual procedures and insensitive treatment by staff. 

Cassidi-Rae Amosa recalled a doctor roughly removing fragments of placenta without warning after she gave birth in 2019.

She urged health care professionals to actively seek consent.

"No nurse or midwife or doctor can tell me (about) my body," Ms Amosa said.

Cassidi-Rae Amosa
Paramedics dismissed Cassidi-Rae Amosa's stroke after childbirth as an overdose as she was young.

She was discharged from hospital with high blood pressure and suffered several strokes about a week later.

Her risk was overlooked before and during the strokes because she was 21.

"The paramedics pretty much stated that I was so young, there's no chance of me having a stroke," she said.

"(They said) 'she must be overdosing'."

The committee heard of research that found women who suffered pelvic organ prolapse after vaginal birth could experience post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms usually seen in war veterans.

"They were re-experiencing it constantly, they were having nightmares, there was avoidance and numbness," research author Dr Elizabeth Skinner said. 

Several psychologists urged the committee to recommend increasing the number of subsidised appointments available under a Medicare mental health treatment plan.

The hearing was the last in the year-long inquiry before it is due to report to parliament in June.

Lifeline 13 11 14

beyondblue 1300 22 4636

License this article

What is AAPNews?

For the first time, Australian Associated Press is delivering news straight to the consumer.

No ads. No spin. News straight-up.

Not only do you get to enjoy high-quality news delivered straight to your desktop or device, you do so in the knowledge you are supporting media diversity in Australia.

AAP Is Australia’s only independent newswire service, free from political and commercial influence, producing fact-based public interest journalism across a range of topics including politics, courts, sport, finance and entertainment.

What is AAPNews?
The Morning Wire

Wake up to AAPNews’ morning news bulletin delivered straight to your inbox or mobile device, bringing you up to speed with all that has happened overnight at home and abroad, as well as setting you up what the day has in store.

AAPNews Morning Wire
AAPNews Breaking News
Breaking News

Be the first to know when major breaking news happens.

Notifications will be sent to your device whenever a big story breaks, ensuring you are never in the dark when the talking points happen.

Focused Content

Enjoy the best of AAP’s specialised Topics in Focus. AAP has reporters dedicated to bringing you hard news and feature content across a range of specialised topics including Environment, Agriculture, Future Economies, Arts and Refugee Issues.

AAPNews Focussed Content
Subscription Plans

Choose the plan that best fits your needs. AAPNews offers two basic subscriptions, all billed monthly.

Once you sign up, you will have seven days to test out the service before being billed.

AAPNews Full Access Plan
Full Access
  • Enjoy all that AAPNews has to offer
  • Access to breaking news notifications and bulletins
  • Includes access to all AAPNews’ specialised topics
Join Now
AAPNews Student Access Plan
Student Access
  • Gain access via a verified student email account
  • Enjoy all the benefits of the ‘Full Access’ plan at a reduced rate
  • Subscription renews each month
Join Now
AAPNews Annual Access Plan
Annual Access
  • All the benefits of the 'Full Access' subscription at a discounted rate
  • Subscription automatically renews after 12 months
Join Now

AAPNews also offers enterprise deals for businesses so you can provide an AAPNews account for your team, organisation or customers. Click here to contact AAP to sign-up your business today.

Download the app
Download AAPNews on the App StoreDownload AAPNews on the Google Play Store