Birth trauma is a shorthand phrase for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after childbirth. We also use it for women who have some symptoms of PTSD, but not enough for a full diagnosis.
PTSD was first identified among soldiers returning from the Vietnam War, and most people still think of it as a condition experienced by soldiers. In fact, PTSD can follow any traumatic event – such as being in a car accident, being sexually abused or having a very difficult birth.
Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event, including people that have witnessed someone else’s death or been present at a difficult birth. Consequently, many partners and midwives may develop PTSD after being exposed to such distressing events.
In the majority of instances, fear is what leads to a traumatic birth – fear that you or your baby may not survive. Women are especially prone to experiencing birth trauma when they lose a large amount of blood due to an emergency C-section as their child’s heart rate suddenly decreases.
When a person experiences birth trauma, they may benefit from evidence-based treatments such as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which can help them process the traumatic event. Additionally, peer support or talking therapies, such as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT), are also available to help people cope with their traumatic birth experience.
There are a wide range of symptoms and a lot of them resemble post traumatic stress disorder and what triggers that condition. Birth Trauma is a particularly sensitive subject as it usually follows or goes hand in hand with a deeply personal tragedy.
Women often experience birth trauma when they have experienced drastic blood loss or when an emergency caesarean is required as a result of their baby’s sudden drop in heart rate.
Birth trauma can, unfortunately, be inflicted upon an expecting mother or her child due to the negligence of medical staff during labour and/or delivery.
You may be re-living aspects of the trauma by having vivid flashbacks that force you to live the trauma over and over again. Intrusive images and thoughts may be entering your mind, becoming a negative influence on your day-to-day life.
Nightmares are another indicator, particularly if they are frequent and recurring nightmares. Experiencing intense distress at real or symbolic reminders of the trauma. This involves physical reminders, like gifts that were meant for the child, or an anniversary of said event. You may even experience outward physical sensations such as pain, sweating, nausea or trembling.
Another subset of symptoms might include alertness or feeling on edge. Within that, there are many indicators such as panicking when reminded of the trauma. This points to unresolved pain and learning to manage or find a solution to this is tantamount. You may become easily upset or feel very angry. Everyone is entitled to a bad day, but this is an indicator if it happens systematically or when a particular topic is raised
Extreme alertness or “hypervigilance”, looking out the window, thinking someone is following or watching you, or even just being hyper-aware of what you are doing and how you are conducting yourself in fear of judgement by others.
If you have trouble sleeping, even when conditions are optimal or you’ve set the mood and prepared yourself could be a factor. You may feel irritable or aggressive for no particular reason, out of character. You may find it difficult to perform simple and everyday tasks, as you are lacking focus or finding it hard to concentrate.
Being jumpy or easily startled, people can bump into you at the supermarket and surprise you but this is almost an obsession where the slightest things are making you jump where they wouldn’t before. If you are experiencing any of these then please speak to a mental health professional.
Looking for therapy for postnatal depression in Guildford, Surrey? Still not sure if you could benefit from our services?
We are leading experts in Birth Trauma Therapy and symptoms linked to PTSD. We harness a range of techniques such as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Trauma focussed CBT to get to the root of your problems and find evidence-based solutions to rectify them and improve your life and outlook.
We have 15 staff who are fully accredited and qualified to support you whether that be on a 1-1 basis or as part of a support group. We will conduct a thorough pre-appointment audit just to make sure that your treatment and therapy is tailored to fit you perfectly.
The appointment takes around 15 minutes at a time that is convenient for you. After that, you can book a 50-75 minute assessment where you will have time to ask questions, share your therapy goals, discuss the possible outcomes, and build a personalized treatment plan with a member of our expert team.
Your therapist will support you every step of the way, whether you opt for a short or long-term plan. If you would like to book an initial consultation, please message or call us, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
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