Giving birth is one of the most physical and transformative experiences we have as women. It is no wonder that sharing birth stories is so common among women of all ages. Ask a woman of any age about her birth story, no matter how long ago, and she can tell you in detail about her experience. But what happens when our experience is fraught with fear, powerlessness, voicelessness, or even terror?
Birth trauma is a constellation of symptoms known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that occurs after childbirth. Between 1-6% of women experience PTSD after childbirth. PTSD is the term for a set of normal reactions to experiences in which there is the threat of death or of serious injury.
- Anxiety or a general sense that something bad is going to happen
- Sleep disturbances
- Being jumpy or easily startled
- An inability to remember some or all of the traumatic experience.
- Intrusive thoughts or images from the trauma during the day or in nightmares
- Feelings of fear, horror, anger, guilt, shame that were not present before the birth
- Avoidance of anything related to the trauma. This can include avoiding thinking about or talking about the birth experience, or doing so only when asked and with as little detail as possible.
Many women who experience birth trauma decide never to have another child in order to avoid having to give birth again, even if they previously wanted multiple children. In this way birth trauma can lead to unnecessary loss. Working through birth trauma can give you back the sense that having more children is again an option for you.
If you find yourself avoiding thinking about or talking about your experience giving birth to your baby because it makes you intensely uncomfortable , and have the sense that starting your relationship with your baby from this place of fear and distress is not what you want, know that therapy is helpful in healing from birth trauma. As a result of processing birth trauma, you will be able to talk about your experience without distress, feel more at ease in your role as a mother, and experience a sense of strength in your transition into life with your baby.