We’ve been running the My Body Back Clinic at St Bartholomew’s Hospital since August 2015, offering cervical screening, STI testing and contraceptive fitting and advice to women who have experienced sexual assault. In this time, women have often told us how isolated they felt throughout pregnancy and labour, and how it had triggered memories and flashbacks of being raped in the past.
They felt they couldn’t tell anyone how they were feeling and none of the staff around them understood why they were so upset when touched during pregnancy examinations, or why they were crying and emotional throughout labour. Their experiences often meant that after birth, they didn’t want to attend neonatal appointments, leading their health and their baby’s health to suffer.
How we did it
To help us start a maternity clinic specially designed for women who have experienced sexual violence, we interviewed 17 women who had told us their stories. We found that there simply isn’t enough maternity support out there for the 1 in 4 women who have experienced sexual violence.
For example, one woman told us that she actively tried to stop her contractions as the feeling of being so physically out of control gave her flashbacks to her rape. Many women found themselves triggered into remembering their assault(s) by health professionals touching them or carrying out vaginal examinations without consent. Women also told us they cried heavily throughout the birth but couldn’t confide in anyone, so were told to “grow up” by staff who thought they were being excessively emotional about labour pains.
For some women, their experiences impeded the bonding process with their babies. Others, despite wanting to breastfeed, felt they couldn’t as this triggered them into remembering their assault.
In the course of our work, we’ve also heard from women who have wanted children but gave up their plans in order to avoid labour and vaginal examinations that could trigger memories of their assault.
At My Body Back, we believe that a rapist’s actions should not be allowed to affect such an integral part of some women’s lives, simply because current services don’t cater to women who feel this way.
Our maternity clinic
The My Body Back Maternity Clinic is the first designated maternity clinic for rape survivors worldwide, and we’ve created a different birthing pathway to ensure that our patients receive tailored, sensitive care. The clinic is run by our founder, Pavan Amara, consultant midwife Inderjeet Kaur, and obstetrician and gynaecologist Rehan Khan.
We’ll be offering the following services:
- Ante-natal classes
- Pregnancy care and examinations
- Care during labour and birth
- Breastfeeding advice
- Specialist advice on ensuring mental wellbeing during labour
- Post-natal gynaecological exams
- Post-natal mental health support
- Pre-pregnancy support for women who want to conceive
Who can attend
Anyone can attend our clinic, as long as they’re a UK citizen. You can visit us from anywhere and health professionals are welcome to refer any UK based patients.
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