Birth Trauma - PTSD

Our modern culture promotes expectations of a joyful, supportive birthing environment, yet the reality can be very different. Many women who suffered birth trauma speak of overwhelming and frightening experiences, especially when circumstances changed suddenly as in emergency situations. It doesn’t help when our culture downplays mental health issues and women are expected to get on with things. Yet, stress in labour is a common experience if things feel out of control and a woman is at her most vulnerable. In a situation where events around the birth are happening quickly she may not feel listened to and mechanical interventions or procedures can so often feel like a violation or abuse. The medical staff may not realise the impact on a mother who has just experienced a traumatic birth and she is sent home without acknowledgement of what happened and without appropriate support. For many reasons, guilt or fear, women suffer in silence However, without treatment, the long-term effects of birth trauma or PTSD can be devastating on the entire family system. It is advisable that Mums’ with mild or severe symptoms following a traumatic birth seek help.

One thing to be clear about - it is not your fault – there is no failure on your part…..

  • The Birth Trauma Association (UK) most recent research published that 30,000 women annually suffer birth trauma experience and 1000 of those women will go on to develop PTSD


  • PTSD symptoms following childbirth is often missed or not at first recognised by health professionals and misdiagnosed as post-natal depression


  • NHS figures – 1: 10 women will experience PND – Post Natal or Post Partum Depression. Also affecting partners and families


  • World Health Organisation researched that 10% of all pregnant women and 13% of women following childbirth will go on to experience problems in mental health, primarily, depression. Statistics are much higher in developing countries (15.6% during pregnancy and 19.8% after childbirth)

Signs of PTSD and effect on daily life and relationships

  •  Anxiety and feeling edgy most of the time with irritability or restlessness - spaced out

  •  Panic attacks with physical sensations of sweating or nausea

  •  Intrusive thoughts or thoughts that keep on going around as in a loop

  •  Flashbacks of the birth or things easily triggering reminders

  •  Disturbed sleep – unable to rest and bad dreams or nightmares

  •  Depression and feelings of painful isolation and guilt

  •  Anger and sudden rages with mood swings

  •  Lack of concentration and fragmented or repressed memory

  •  Sensitive to touch – does not want to be touched - worse for consolation and relationships affected

  •  Withdraws socially, and avoids social interactions – especially other mothers with babies

  •  Fear of hospitals, childbirth and mistrust of any medical type situations

  •  Exhaustion - hyper-vigilance – anguish, constant fear of safety of her baby and ‘over-care’   that she can't let the baby out of her sight

  •  Difficulty or worries about bonding with her baby

  •  Feelings of violation that can't be explained

  •  Joyless or lack of interest in life

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