The 7th to 14th July 2019 is Birth Trauma Week. So I am going to take a break away from my recent series on childbirth delivery options to draw attention to this important issue.

What is Birth Trauma?

Birth Trauma is the shorthand term for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after birth. 

Around 30,000 women a year (according to the most recent research) experience birth trauma in the UK.  Giving birth should be joyful and happy, but for some the experience can actually be frightening.  Perhaps Mum planned for a natural birth, but during labour the baby’s heart rate dipped, resulting in an emergency caesarean.  Or maybe Mum or baby suffered from injuries incurred during the birth. Or maybe Mum and baby weren’t looked after in labour, or simply weren’t told what to expect.

If you have experienced something like this, you would probably have felt scared that something life threatening was going to happen to you or the baby.  Just like other traumatic experiences such as a car accident, a sexual assault, or seeing a bomb explode, a traumatic birth can lead to symptoms of PTSD. 

Re-living aspects of the trauma:

  • Flashbacks (that it is happening all over again)
  • Intrusive thoughts and images
  • Nightmares
  • Physical symptoms e.g. pain, sweats, nausea or trembling 
  • A sense of heightened anxiety
  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma e.g. pregnant women, other babies, programmes on TV (Midwives, One Born Every Minute), hospitals, certain smells

Alertness or feeling on edge:

  • Panicking when reminded of the trauma
  • Being easily upset or angry
  • Extreme alertness
  • Fitful sleep or no sleep
  • Irritability and aggressive behaviour
  • Lack of concentration
  • Easily startled
  • Self-destructive behaviour or recklessness

Avoiding feelings or memories:

  • Keeping busy
  • Avoiding situations that remind you of the trauma
  • Repressing memories (not being able to recall certain events that occurred)
  • Feeling detached from family and friends, being emotionally cut off
  • Being unable to express affection
  • Using alcohol or drugs to numb the pain and avoid memories

Such symptoms can lead to:

  • Bonding difficulties with your baby
  • Your trauma can also be traumatic to someone else – did you know around 70% of partners can experience PTSD too?

You Are Not Alone

So if you have experienced a traumatic birth, displaying any of the symptoms above, then you are not alone. There are many Health Care Professionals out there waiting to support you to recover mentally and physically.  I have one such professional on my website; Anne Bayati, (based in Royal Tunbridge Wells) who is trained and specialised in traumatic births.

There is also the Birth Trauma Association (BTA). The BTA is a charity that helps support women suffering from birth trauma and they exist to help women through this challenging and painful time.  So if you want to know more, click the above link and select the Parents menu.

And finally there is Mind, which has information and resources for Postnatal and Perinatal Mental Health.

Don’t be ignored. Don’t suffer in silence. It is okay to not feel okay when your world is crashing down around you. 

Remember you aren’t ALONE.

To end, I want to share this video with you. It was made by the BTA, and in it you can hear from five women, talking about their experience of birth trauma and how they found help:

You Baby Beyond – Support, Love and Healing for Mums

References:

  • The Birth Trauma Association
  • Mind