Here Bree Hicks, 33, tells the story in her own words.
‘It won’t be long,’ my husband Ryan, now 34, encouraged.
In labour with our first baby, it was going smoothly.
‘You’re fully dilated,’ the midwife nodded 11 hours in.
Then, as I turned on my side, the monitor went off saying baby’s heart rate had dropped.
When a doctor was called, she decided my bub should be vacuumed out.
Tugging and yanking, at last she got our baby, a little girl we called Ruby, into the world.
I didn’t get to meet her, though.
‘We need to take you to theatre to repair your tear,’ I was told.
Hearing it should take just 40 minutes I opted to have no general anaesthetic.
Shockingly, I was still being stitched up four hours later.
I had a massive fourth-degree tear that went up into my rectum, which could cause serious long-term problems.
And it got worse.
After the surgery my blood pressure was so low, internal bleeding was suspected.
Heading back into surgery, I was given three blood transfusions.
‘You’re too sick to meet your daughter today,’ the nurse said afterwards.
The next morning the pain hit me.
It was unbearable, but I grimaced through it as I held Ruby for the first time.
I needed another two blood transfusions that week before I was wheeled out of hospital in a chair six days later because I couldn’t walk.
This is not how it was meant to be, I thought, tearfully.
The next six months were terrible.
I couldn’t move or walk properly but the nightmares were the worst.
Haunted by frightening dreams of the birth, I spoke to my GP.
Seeing a psychologist, I was diagnosed with PTSD.
It’s been two years but certain things still trigger me, mainly medical situations.
I’ve needed another four surgeries to repair damage to my perineal and rectal areas, which have been really hard physically and mentally.
There’s sadly a chance I’ll need a colostomy bag fitted for life.
I love Ruby to bits and she has been an amazing baby through it all, but I’m not ready to have another child, and I don’t know if I ever will be.
I need to share my experience to help other women, I realised.
They need to know there’s help out there if they are still feeling stressed and anxious weeks after birth.
And, it’s good to know they aren’t alone.
In Australia, 1 in 3 women identify their births as traumatic with two to six per cent of these women going on to experience PTSD.
10 to 20 per cent of first-time mothers suffer major physical damage in the form of pelvic floor muscle and/or anal sphincter tears.
Women who experience birth trauma can suffer flashbacks, disjointed memories, anxiety, hyper-arousal and avoidance of possible trauma triggers.
For more information visit www.birthtrauma.org.au