I am a clinical psychologist that has worked in intensive inpatient and outpatient settings since 1999 with a focus on the treatment of depression, anxiety, and PTSD. My own experience and recovery from PTSD in 2010 following a natural birth with my daughter led me to further specialize in peri/postnatal psychology, including the impact of psychological trauma incurred during labor and delivery. Studies note an increased risk of birth trauma and PTSD when mothers undergo natural birth without pain relief. One is also at risk when unexpected procedures become necessary for the health of the mother or child. Ultimately, any experience of helplessness and perceived trauma (i.e., “coping” with something that feels beyond one’s ability to cope) during labor and delivery can lead to traumatic symptomatology that puts a mother at risk for postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Birth clearly has a psychological outcome in addition to the physical one.
I have also engaged in study of modern day American parenting and have found that many of today’s parenting “experts” narrow the view to the psychology of the child despite the fact that relationships are a unique two-way interaction with two sets of needs in negotiation. We all to often fail to appreciate the mother’s psychology — her very real pain, her feelings, her needs — when we suggest one-size-fits-all recommendations for hot topics like breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and “crying it out”. Paying better attention to the mother’s psychology would help reduce PTSD and postpartum depression / anxiety while broadening our understanding of what accounts for “healthy” postpartum parenting.
In an effort to reduce the unnecessary judgement of mothers not able or inclined towards the natural birthing and parenting climate so prevalent in counties like mine, I have put together this website with solid articles addressing the hot topics they may face. My private practice work is dedicated to each individual’s personal recovery and journey outside of any ideology or external parenting expertise.
Boukje Eerkens, Psy.D., QME