Birth Trauma: What It Is & How It’s Treated
November is Prematurity Awareness Month. Unfortunately for many women, birth trauma can be closely linked to delivering a preterm baby. The experience of the new baby having to stay in NICU, the fear of baby’s safety, and other factors that often come with having a preterm baby, play a role in the development of birth Trauma.
What is Birth Trauma?
'Birth Trauma' is distress experienced by a mother during or after childbirth. Birth trauma can be physical, but it is often very much emotional and psychological as well.
Birth trauma isn’t just what happened during labour and the birth. It can also refer to how the mother feels or is left feeling afterwards. Sometimes the effects of birth trauma can appear and continue for some time after the difficult birth.
According to Rachel Rabinor, in this fantastic article on Birth Trauma, the common symptoms of women who have experienced this trauma may include:
Feeling socially isolated
Difficulty bonding with their baby
Anxiety or panic attacks
Worry excessively about the health of their babies
Worry that their child might die
Flashbacks or memories that repeat over and over about medical procedures or the behaviour of medical staff
How is Birth Trauma treated?
If you or someone close to you could be experiencing birth trauma, it's very important to seek help as early as possible — which benefits both you & your family.
Some psychological symptoms, including the 'baby blues', are very common around the time of birth. But if you still feel the lingering damage more than a few weeks after the birth, you could be experiencing perinatal depression or anxiety (PMADs).
There are many different types of counselling available, here are a few options:
EMDR therapy a protocol for healing the brain of trauma
Somatic experiencing or body focused psychotherapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy - questioning and working with your thoughts
Relational psychology - looking at one’s core values
Creative therapy such as art, dance, writing, crafting or pet therapies
For my clients, I generally treat birth trauma with EMDR, and will soon treat it with Somatic Experiencing (I am currently enrolled in a 3 years long training with that approach).
What is EMDR?
As mentioned above, one of the approaches I use in my work is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) which is an approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma.
It uses standardized protocols and your brain's innate abilities to reprocess material and change the influence of disturbing experiences. EMDR can significantly reduce emotional distress, relieve uncomfortable physical symptoms and transform negative beliefs so you can get past stuck points, restore healthy functioning, and engage in life in a more resilient and successful way.
If you would like to learn more about EMDR, please check out this blog post on the topic as well!
Birth Trauma is extremely individualized. What one might feel is a smooth labour & delivery with minimal issues, may be an emotional or physical nightmare for another. Remember that Birth Trauma doesn't just mean physical pain, it’s the feelings you are left with before, during, and after delivery. Birth trauma can sink in much later, being triggered by situations (like trying to have another baby). What’s important to remember is that your trauma is real, your feelings are valid, and there is support for you when you choose to receive it.