5 signs for birth trauma and what to do about it

Birth trauma is something I hear a lot about from my postpartum clients, They did exactly what I did with my first. They did understand or appreciate the importance of it, they relied on the midoves to advise them and didn’t there was anything they could do to prepare.

I honestly wish that they would teach in school the importance of birth education and how it can significantly reduce birth trauma and PTSD.

What Cause Birth Trauma?

One of the main reasons I have found over the years of working with pregnant and postpartum mums, is the feeling of being out of control. It’s rarely to do with the circumstances, but instead not understanding what is happening to them and not being part of the decisions.

The other most common reason is not understanding choices and how many choices someone has – for example, even spending a few moments to pause and process what’s happening and come to a decision based on knowledge can make a huge difference compared to making a decision based on fear.

There are many other reasons that birth trauma can occur and here are a few:

  • Lack of education, information and/or explanation
  • A long or painful labour 
  • Induction
  • High levels of medical intervention
  • Assisted births
  • Emergency caesareans
  • Impersonal treatment by midwives and staff
  • Not being heard
  • Lack of cultural sensitivity and dignity
  • Baby’s health
  • Stillbirth
  • Poor postnatal care
  • Previous trauma not being addressed and being triggered

What Are The Signs Of Birth Trauma

1. Re-experiencing the birth by getting flashbacks, having nightmares or intrusive memories. These may make you feel upset, overwhelmed and sometimes lead to panic.

2. Not addressing anything about the birth and avoiding anything that relates to it. This can show up in different ways, such as, avoiding the place you gave birth, not attending mum and baby groups and refusing to talk about it. 

3. Increase in anxiety afterwards which can show up as irritability, constant worry and even anger. Sometimes it can lead to postpartum anxiety, where you’re worried about something bad happening to your baby.

4. Feelings of shame and guilt in relation to how the birth went as well feeling unhappy about it. It’s also common to feel that something ‘happened to you’, a loss of control.

5. Finding it hard to  remember parts of the birth and/or avoiding thinking about it all together.

What Can You Do About It?

The first thing is to acknowledge that you’ve had a traumatic birth, rather than brush it off as something ‘normal’. It’s easy during those first few weeks after birth to push it one side because of the huge demands of looking after a newborn as well as your postpartum recovery. However, if it isn’t acknowledged and addressed it can lead to postpartum anxiety, postnatal depression and PTSD.

The next thing is to get the support you need to process it. You can’t change what happened, however you can change how you physiologically react to it and learn to process it. One way is to get psychological support, such as counselling and/or therapy. Another way is through having a debrief, where you have a safe space to talk through what the birth was like for you. It can help to also have your birth partner fill in some blanks if there are things that you can’t remember.

The third way is through Birth Trauma Release, which is a 3-step rewind process that uses guided meditation and a safe space to teach your subconscious mind to react differently to the memory. This is extremely effective and something that I’m trained in myself. When I worked with a pregnant client who had a very traumcatic birth; after her sessions she said she saw the birth completely differently and even started to remember some really positive things about it that her mind had blocked out.

You can find out more about where I trained here, and if you’d like to have a chat about the Birth Trauma Release, click here to book in a chat with me and we’ll talk about what exactly it involves.