How to overcome a birth trauma

What distress you must be in if you (and/or) you partner have suffered a birth trauma.

This page is for you regardless of what the birth trauma exactly was, how long ago it was and whether you're pregnant now or can't even contemplate ever becoming pregnant again.

Have you had help for your birth trauma?

Now that you've landed on my page I wonder what help, support and treatment you've had in healing from your birth trauma:

  • no meaningful help at all?
  • support and help from midwives or other medical professionals?
  • psychological treatment from a suitably qualified trauma specialist?
  • support and help from your partner or spouse?
  • support and help from friends or family?
  • OR... nobody knows you're suffering!

Perhaps you have felt unable to admit to others (or even to yourself) that you can't get over that traumatic birth. Despite your trying to leave it behind you're still devastated by it.

Or your suffering is no secret and you're looking for a birth injury lawyer - you want to claim compensation.

What exactly was the cause of your birth trauma?

Have a look at the kind of birth events that could've potentially led to your feeling devastated and traumatised - even if some of them are not strictly birth 'traumas'.

Most birth traumas are related to a sense of loss - separate from the all-encompassing sadness of the death of a baby. A traumatic birth often causes a loss of confidence, connection, safety and control. These losses also point to how you can get over that horrendous experience and heal.

I've listed the types of losses...

5 Major losses after suffering a traumatic birth

  1. Losses surrounding your baby - the death or loss of the expectation of a healthy baby
  2. The loss of your sense of security and safety -  a safe environment, trust in the medical profession
  3. The loss of confidence in your body/yourself - you felt out of control, your body didn't 'perform' the way it was supposed or expected to
  4. The loss of confidence in other people - you feel let down by your partner, professionals and/or family
  5. The loss of important relationships - some people just 'disappear' as they don't know what to say or what to do, or it's too 'close to home' for them

Problems with the delivery

  • The how, where and when of the delivery of your baby
  • You have sustained an injury
  • You may have felt out of control of the way in which the baby was delivered, even if you understood the reasons for it
  • The way you felt the doctors/midwives/nurses conducted themselves

Problems with the baby

  • Your baby may very sadly have died before, during or immediately after the delivery
  • Your baby was injured during childbirth
  • Your baby may have arrived too early and is in a special care baby unit
  • Your baby is ill or is born with special needs - expected or unexpected

What's adding to your distress?

There are often other problems that add to the distress and devastation of a trauma. The following wouldn't have caused your birth trauma, but they may have added to or complicated your birth trauma.

Problems in your relationship or marriage

Marital or relationship problems are going to make it harder for you (both) to get over a birth trauma. Those problems may include:

  • the way your partner and/or father of the baby acted before, during or after your pregnancy and delivery
  • the state of your relationship at the time of your falling pregnant

Other potentially contributing factors

  • the manner in which you fell pregnant - though this is not strictly a birth trauma - it could certainly lead to a traumatic pregnancy and birth
  • distressing (family) events prior to your giving birth
  • other distressing life events surrounding your pregnancy and delivery
  • a pre-existing phobia, whether for hospitals, blood, childbirth or any other

Indeed some women fear that they're suffering from post traumatic stress or PTSD after the birth of their baby. (See my pages on PTSD)

You delivered a healthy baby, but had a traumatic birth?

When anaesthesia was developed, it was for many decades routinely withheld from women giving birth, since women were "supposed" to suffer.

One of the few societies to take a contrary view was the Huichol tribe in Mexico. The Huichol believed that the pain of childbirth should be shared, so the mother would hold on to a string tied to her husband's testicles. With each painful contraction, she would give the string a yank so that the man could share the burden.

Surely if such a mechanism were more widespread, injuries in childbirth would garner more attention.” 

― Nicholas D. Kristof, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

There is a general expectation that you as a mother - and of course the other parent or partner - should be happy with healthy baby. Particularly if your circumstances are judged by others to be 'ideal. Well, however well-intentioned, that isn't going to help if you want to get over a birth trauma.

Your unhappy and even traumatic experience does not fit the expected ‘script’ if you're traumatised.  Loved ones may have trouble understanding why you're not your normal self. It's therefore no wonder if you've ended up putting on a mask and feel torn between revealing and hiding your distress, depending on who you are with at any one time. 

However, if your distress is such that you barely feel in control of your feelings, it's likely 'leak out', despite your utmost to try and to hide it.

Have a look at my other pages on trauma, starting with The Signs and Symptoms of Trauma. Your partner or other loved ones are much more likely to understand if they are educated about trauma.

Problem with the baby?

If there is any kind of problem with the baby, people are likely to attribute your and your partner's distress to your worries and sadness about that. The trauma of the actual delivery of the baby (birth trauma) may remain hidden.

How to overcome a 'disastrous' birth

Can you get over a birth trauma? Absolutely you can! And it really doesn't have to mean years of psychotherapy. There are wonderful gentle and often fast ways of treating traumas, including birth traumas.

It is very possible that make a complete recovery. The memory of it will never be pleasant, but you won't be haunted by it anymore. You'll even be able to comfortably contemplate another pregnancy again, rather than thinking you'll never have another child!

You'll be able to focus on living your life without being distracted by the terror of that birth trauma. Gone those angry, painful, frightening thoughts, feelings, nightmares and flashbacks.

Are you suffering from post-natal depression?

The suffering from the after-effects of a traumatic birth with signs and symptoms of PTSD can occur alongside post-natal depression. If you are traumatised it may be difficult to distinguish between the two, but really - the sooner you can be helped to recover from the trauma the more likely you can bond with your baby.

There are some really helpful self-hypnosis downloads I recommend for that. Have a look at my page on How to Do Self-Hypnosis.

Should you sue the hospital, doctor or midwife?

A birth trauma will have affected you, your partner or spouse in very different ways - for obvious and not so obvious reasons.

You may initially agree that suing is the right thing to do. However, what happens if either one of you change your mind further down the line?  What if one of you can't bear the pain and frustration of the legal process any long and the other is hell-bend on continuing? Will your relationship withstand the stress of such a fundamental disagreement?

This is not to put you off the process of suing. I just want you to fully understand the consequences in terms of your relationship as well as each of your mental and emotional well-being.

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Elly Prior

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