What is traumatic birth?

What is traumatic birth and postpartum PTSD?

“Traumatic births may vary greatly. As explained by Baby Center, a traumatic birth involves distress for the mother, whether this is due to difficulties with physical or emotional problems. The physical aspects of childbirth cannot be overstated. If a woman has to cope with tearing or an emergency C-section, for instance, then she may experience feelings of trauma, as further explained by Baby Center. Furthermore, emotional distress can also lead to a traumatic birth. As noted in Psychology Today, anything from unrealistic expectations of the birth experience to feeling neglected by the hospital’s medical staff may contribute to the experience of a traumatic birth…

“If you do experience a traumatic birth, keep in mind that, for better or worse, you are far from alone. According to Postpartum Support International (PSI), around nine percent of women cope with some form of PTSD following the birth of their child. And as further explained by PSI, the symptoms of postpartum PTSD may include flashbacks to the traumatic birth, an aversion to things that remind you of the event, and even a sense of unreality. If any of these symptoms describe your own birth experience, then don’t hesitate to reach out to doctors, counselors, or loved ones for support. Both you and your child deserve to move on and be happy.”

Guest post: when birth is trauma

“Research in this field is at an early stage and more needs to be done before making policy recommendations. However, the body of evidence points towards several considerations. Firstly, some women enter pregnancy and birth with existing risk factors for PTSD, and these women may need particular care. Health professionals should be aware that women with a history of trauma, abuse (particularly sexual abuse) and psychiatric problems are at higher risk of PTSD following birth. There is some evidence that a lack of support during the birth may put these women at particular risk (5).

Secondly, interactions with other people have a strong effect on trauma reactions. For example, PTSD is more likely following events which are perceived to have been intentionally perpetrated rather than following accidents (15). This effect of personal relationships and care is particularly relevant to childbirth (16). There is substantial research showing support during labour and birth improves both physical and psychological outcomes (17), and that perceptions of inadequate support and care are predictive of traumatic stress responses. Women who are traumatised often describe negative interactions with staff such as feeling rushed, bullied, judged, ignored or put off when asking for pain relief.

Understanding the importance of support helps explain why, for example, level of pain is not consistently associated with PTSD symptoms. It may not be the level of pain per se which is traumatising for women, but the experience of unbearable pain in combination with the perception of being denied pain-relief by an uncooperative caregiver. Women also report caregivers proceeding with interventions, such as forceps deliveries or episiotomies, without consent, and sometimes even when the woman has clearly expressed her wish not to have the intervention. Negligent care such as leaving women naked in stirrups with the door open can be intensely degrading and stressful. Many of the traumatising aspects of childbirth could be reduced with consistent and considerate care from maternity staff.”