What Is Birth Trauma?

Are you experiencing Birth Trauma?

Birth Trauma symptoms and resources:

If you found your way here because you might be suffering from Birth Trauma, here's what I want you to know first.

-You can love your baby and be grateful for your baby's health and still have birth trauma. People who suggest "just be thankful for a healthy baby" don't get it. They may mean well but they are shaming you. Do not listen to them. What you feel matters.

You can have a medically normal birth and still have PTSD symptoms. In fact, many people suffering with birth trauma had medically normal births "on paper"

You are not alone. In fact, research suggests more than 30% of people have trauma after their birth. And no, they are not okay either.

There is hope. There are many therapies that work quickly and effectively on birth trauma. These include EMDR or Brainspotting. My research tells me that other treatment which might be helpful would include narrative-based therapies, group support therapies and other body-based (often called somatic) therapies.

So what are some signs of Birth Trauma? Well, that's a trickier question than you would think. While PTSD has clear-cut criteria, in my experience Birth Trauma can look slightly different. In fact, it is often missed by medical and even mental health professionals, or confused for depression or anxiety.

Here is what I see in my office when working with birth trauma:

1. Intrusive thoughts: This can be flashbacks of the birth, dreams or intrusive memories. For many moms, it is the sense that their birth memories (once triggered) plays through in their brain whether they want it to or not. They find it distracting, distressing or in some way unpleasant. It doesn't feel like a choice.

2. Mood and Beliefs: This can vary greatly by person. It might include- anxiety, depression, guilt, anger, numbness, or emotional disconnection. For some it looks like guilt, self-blame or shame.

3. Avoidance: This one I see less frequently. Some moms avoid things that trigger the upsetting part of their birth experience (this could be doctor's offices, hospitals, certain smells, certain people.) In rare cases it can look like aversion to the baby. Or the avoidance might be all internal- moms avoid thinking about the birth at all because they find it too upsetting. I personally have found that this is variable. Some people experience it and others do not.

4. High Alert: This symptom of PTSD can be easily misdiagnosed as anxiety. It can look like worry, an exaggerated startle response, inability to sleep as normal, or irritability. In new moms it can look like intense fear of germs, or other people holding baby, or a compulsion to watch baby while sleeping. It is as if (while part of you is so tired!) the other part of your brain is wired; ready for any possible danger whether real or imagined.

If you, or someone you love, recognizes their experiences in this list- please know you are not alone. Please know there is help for you. Please find a professional who is experienced with trauma (because not all mental health issues are the same). And find someone who will treat this seriously regardless of what the manuals say. One who will treat you as an individual. One who will believe you and your story. It can make all the difference.

And please know, that you have an ally. We are a small group but we are growing. We are listening. Birth trauma is real and families deserve better.

You can join a free Facebook support group for birth trauma here.
You can follow the Facebook page for birth trauma here.

For those who want to see more about my work with trauma go here.
You can listen to my podcast interview on birth trauma here.
You can watch my video on trauma in the brain here.

Wishing you healing for your journey,

Photo by RawPixel

PS- I made some videos just for you, in case that's more your thing. See below:

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