There is no shortage of stories about giving birth. As joyously life-altering as it can be, the process is often draining — physically and emotionally. Childbirth is a stressful experience with the potential to be traumatic. Every person reacts differently and operates within a unique set of factors. Two people can endure an almost identical set of birth experiences, yet their outcomes can vary widely.
That said, if a pregnancy or birth impacts your mental health and daily functioning, it should not be ignored or downplayed. It can lead to postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and threaten the well-being of both the person giving birth and child.
What is a Traumatic Pregnancy?
If someone goes through a crisis while pregnant, it can severely impact the birthing experience. What constitutes trauma? Never forget that it is a subjective term. What feels minor to one person could be nightmarish to another. There is no “correct” judgment or perspective. Trauma is in the eye (and body) of the beholder.
For example, during pregnancy, a person could take a fall, be involved in a car accident, get victimized by a crime, or endure any kind of medical or mental health emergency including impacts to the health and wellbeing of the baby. This type of event can result in outcomes ranging from early contractions and pre-term labor to spontaneous abortion. Such a situation is a direct risk factor for a traumatic birth.
What is a Traumatic Birth?
Whether or not the pregnancy was complicated, there are countless ways that childbirth itself can be traumatic, for example:
- Strife with or a lack of support from your partner and/or family
- Extremely painful experiences
- Sudden occurrence of challenging outside events
- Feeling out of control and powerless during a hospital birth
- Not being allowed to have your community with you during this vulnerable time
- Practitioners using tools like forceps or vacuum extractors
- Unplanned C-section
- A medical emergency that puts the baby’s life at risk, e.g., the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck or anything that requires the infant to be sent to the NICU
- A medical emergency that puts the mother’s life at risk, e.g., hemorrhaging, perineal tearing, or the need to perform a hysterectomy
Any of the above can result in something called postpartum trauma.
Signs That You May Want to Seek Birth Trauma Therapy
It’s normal and inevitable for a new mother to feel nervous or anxious after giving birth. Postpartum trauma is much more than this and manifests in a variety of disturbing ways:
- Anxiety symptoms, panic attacks
- Intrusive thoughts that the baby was harmed during birth or is in danger now
- Vivid nightmares or flashbacks
- Angry outbursts
- Unexplained physical symptoms like headaches
- Sleep and digestive disturbances
- Hyper-vigilance when it comes to caring for the baby
- Unwilling to be away from the baby
- Blaming oneself for the traumatic birth, feeling shame over this
- Depressive symptoms like not bonding with the baby or feeling too tired to care for them
The Benefits of Birth Trauma Therapy
Women tend to suffer in silence and shame when something as fundamental as childbirth becomes complicated. This is the opposite of what they need. Birth trauma therapy is an avenue by which they can acknowledge and process their emotions. It’s where they can resolve the trauma. Some of the many positive outcomes include:
- Understanding what happened
- How to manage negative memories and feelings
- Healing the body as well as the mind
- Learning new coping mechanisms
- Help you reconnect with your newborn, your partner, and others in your life
The first crucial step is asking for help. Healing from postpartum trauma is not something to be tackled with self-help tips. They help, but you’ll need the guidance of a trauma-informed therapist. Connect with us at Onyx and book a session with an experienced and skilled therapist.