Are you experiencing trauma related to a birth? If so you are not alone and there is help for you! As many as 18% of all women experience trauma related to childbirth, one third of whom experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Yet despite its widespread nature, the experience of birth-related trauma can be an isolating one, as mothers are encouraged to focus on their babies and quickly “get over” their birth experience. Trauma can affect a mother – and a partner’s – ability to connect with their baby, carry out normal activities, and can also impair breastfeeding.
Instead of being joyful and happy, the experience of giving birth has been frightening. Perhaps the baby’s heart rate dipped, leading to an emergency caesarean section. Maybe you were or your baby suffered injuries as the result of the birth. Or maybe you felt that you weren’t well looked after in labor, or you weren’t told what to expect.
If something like this has happened to you, you might have felt scared that you or the baby were going to die. As with any other traumatic experience – a car accident, or a sexual assault, or seeing a bomb explode – a traumatic birth can lead to symptoms of PTSD: flashbacks, a sense of heightened anxiety, constantly feeling on the alert, avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma.
Do you have PTSD related to your birth? Here are some common characteristic features, according to the Birth Trauma Association:
- An experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby). [Note that it’s the mother’s perception that is important, whether or not others agree.]
- A response of intense fear, helplessness or horror to that experience.
- The persistent re-experiencing of the event by way of recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. The individual will usually feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.
- Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma. This can include talking about it, although sometimes women may go through a stage of talking of their traumatic experience a lot so that it obsesses them at times.
- Bad memories and the need to avoid any reminders of the trauma, will often result in difficulties with sleeping and concentrating. Sufferers may also feel angry, irritable and be hyper vigilant (feel jumpy or on guard all the time).
What are some common triggers for birth-related PTSD?
- Lengthy labor or short and very painful labor
- Poor pain relief
- Feelings of loss of control
- High levels of medical intervention
- Traumatic or emergency deliveries, e.g. emergency cesarean section
- Impersonal treatment or problems with staff attitudes
- Not being listened to
- Lack of information or explanation
- Lack of privacy and dignity
- Fear for baby’s safety
- Birth of an injured baby (a disability resulting from birth trauma)
- Baby’s stay in NICU
- Poor postpartum care
- Previous trauma (for example, sexual abuse, domestic violence, trauma with a previous birth)
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is considered by trauma experts, including the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense and the American Psychological Association, to be a front line treatment for PTSD. EMDR helps people by processing disturbing memories, negative thoughts, feelings and body sensations. EMDR processes distressing memories so that people are no longer triggered when thinking of the incident or triggered by similar incidents. EMDR therapy stimulates the right and left brain by moving your eyes back and forth or holding a handheld device which pulsates. EMDR therapy begins working immediately and can reduce trauma symptoms in a quick as a few sessions.
Lemecia Lindsey uses EMDR therapy to help mothers heal from traumatized childbirth experiences. She uses EMDR for a optimal mind + body healing approach to recovery. To learn more about how EMDR therapy can help you please visit www.vancouveremdrtherapy.com.
Lemecia brings a compassionate approach to healing with the understanding of the unique needs and experiences that mothers face. Please call today to get started!