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What is Birth Trauma?

Updated: Dec 30, 2019

Pregnancy and birth are viewed by society as a very positive and exciting time – and often it is!  Along with the excitement, there is often many more emotions that come along with the pregnancy, birth and postpartum experiences that are often difficult to put words to.  Perhaps it is shameful to talk about depressive feelings because you also have a deep love for your child and expressing those depressed feelings may make it appear you are not thankful or loving towards your child.  It is important to talk about these feelings because keeping them in can spill over into other areas of life. 

Who May Experience Birth Trauma and How Would You Know?

One experience that is often overlooked is birth trauma.  It can be difficult to believe that birth can be traumatic, but it can be!  A trauma event is defined as a person who is exposed to actual or threatened death, serious injury or a sexual violation.  In some cases, birth can definitely fall into this category.  The birthing process can be very painful and pain medication may not be available in a timely manner (such as the anesthesiologist will not be in for an hour or more) or the pain medication does not work.  There can also be a sense of loss of control, especially when an unexpected C-Section is done or an assisted birth (such as an episiotomy, forceps or vacuum).  Birth trauma is also reported from women who felt a lack of care or support during their birth experience.  This can include experiences such as her needs not being listened to or feeling vulnerable and unable to change it (such as the door being left open when being in the birthing stirrups). 

Women may have symptoms of birth trauma and have a hard time identifying why these feelings are there.  Symptoms can include:

·  Reliving the worst parts of the birth over and over again, through flashbacks or


·  Feeling jumpy or over-anxious – you may become over-protective of your baby

·  Finding it hard to remember some parts of the birth (this may be a sign that the woman dissociated during the event)

·  Finding it difficult to bond with your baby

·  Feeling depressed, irritable or angry

·  Finding it difficult to concentrate

·  Finding it hard to breastfeed

What Does Treatment Look Like?

There is currently no medication that is proven to treat PTSD.  Trauma Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been shown to help change how a person thinks about their experience. The focus is on how to improve the state of mind now rather than focusing on the cause and symptoms of distress.

If you have noticed that you are experiencing symptoms of birth trauma and would like to talk to someone about it. Perhaps you are not sure, but you have been feeling off ever since your pregnancy or birthing experience. Please reach out to talk to someone today! You are not alone, and you can discover healing.

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