Trauma can be described as a deeply distressing experience or emotional shock following a stressful event. Birth related trauma is more common than you might think. The Birth Trauma Association estimate that 20,000 women are affected by a trauma during child birth each year. This does not just affect women but also their birth partners and birth professionals.
The word trauma itself can be misleading however, as some people may feel or be told that they should not be traumatised by their experience if both mother and baby are well. But this is not the case, as it’s the woman’s perception of the experience and how she was treated that is most important. It is not only life-threatening or emergency situations during childbirth which can lead to trauma.
We do not know why some people are negatively impacted by their birth experience while others are not. However, a woman can be left feeling traumatised by her experience for many different reasons. She may be feeling:
out of control
a sense of loss of dignity
alone or abandoned
ignored, not listened to or invisible
that her own or her baby’s life were in danger
that she received poor postnatal care or had difficulties with breastfeeding
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Some people may go on to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following their birth experience. PTSD was first recognised in soldiers returning from war, however birth related PTSD did not become recognised until the 1990s. Today, birth related PTSD is often misdiagnosed as Postnatal Depression (PND), however it is important to recognise the differences between these conditions so that those suffering can receive the support which is right for them.
Symptoms of Birth Trauma
Birth trauma is unique to each individual and is not just based on the type of birth experienced. Do you experience any of the following?
Do you feel panicked or anxious when you think back to your birth experience?
Do you experience flashbacks or nightmares relating to your birth experience?
Do you have difficulty concentrating on things?
Do you avoid thinking or talking about your birth?
Do you feel scared or anxious about having another baby?
Do you feel disconnected from friends and family?
Do you find it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep?
Have you lost interest in things you used to enjoy?
Do you feel irritable or experience angry outbursts?
Are you constantly watching out for danger?
Do you feel hopeless about the future?
It is not necessary to have all of these symptoms to be experiencing trauma. However, if you answered yes to any of these questions, you are not alone and do not have to go on feeling this way. There is fast and affective treatment available which can alleviate these devastating symptoms, allowing you to regain strength, emotional well-being and feel empowered to move forward with your life and fully enjoy motherhood.