Many people understand and expect women to have to heal and recover physically after having a baby. While women are strong and resilient individuals, your body undergoes many changes and challenges over the course of pregnancy, and labor and delivery can be very painful and leave you with scars or even bodily injuries. However, for many women, the damage from labor can also be emotional and lead to birth trauma.
Birth trauma is a term used for women who experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after giving birth. It is a real, diagnosable condition that can cause women to feel anxious or hypervigilant, often reliving memories from labor or frequently experiencing nightmares.
If you’d describe your birth experience as traumatic, you’re not alone. As many as 45% of women report that they experienced a traumatic birth. Despite this, many women find it difficult to talk about the emotional effects of childbirth.
If birth trauma is negatively affecting your mental health and making it difficult to take good care of your needs and your baby’s, we can help. Our compassionate, knowledgeable psychiatrists at Thriving Lane specialize in offering maternal and reproductive mental health services and treating perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, post-partum depression, birth trauma and more through women’s teletherapy. Our goal is to help you feel heard and heal the emotional scars that no one talks about.
Need help processing your birth? Get the support you need with online counseling at Thriving Lane.
Why Do Some Women Experience Birth Trauma?
While pregnancy and birth are common life events that tie many women together, everyone’s experience is unique. Movies and other people in your life may paint birth as this beautiful moment where all the pain and anxiety from the hours of labor before are worth being able to finally hold your little one in your arms. However, the reality for many women is that an especially painful, difficult, or life-threatening delivery can have long-term effects on their mental health.
We know that birth trauma is caused by women experiencing trauma during delivery; however, the events that lead to symptoms of PTSD are different for everyone. In other words, there are no criteria for what you experienced during birth that made it traumatic. Rather, it is your perception of the situation that makes it traumatic.
Here’s the key takeaway: Your birth trauma is valid no matter the circumstances. You did not need to experience a life-threatening situation or experience a great deal of physical pain for your trauma to be justified. Your emotions are completely legitimate, and you do not need to silently push through your pain and anxiety.
Factors That Can Lead to Birth Trauma
Women experience birth trauma for a wide range of reasons. While issues like poor pain relief, fetal or maternal distress, emergency C-section, or necessary medical intervention can all increase your chance of experiencing postnatal PTSD, there are other common factors that women with birth trauma report.
Many women feel traumatized by a lack of privacy, control, or dignity. They may fear losing control of their bodily functions, their emotions, or their reactions when in labor. It can be very unsettling to experience deep pain and distress in front of your loved ones and complete strangers.
Women can also find it deeply disappointing and frightening when birth has a completely different outcome than they expected. You may have had expectations or wishes going into labor that couldn’t be fulfilled, such as needing to have a C-section at the hospital when you planned for a homebirth or not being able to get an epidural if labor progressed too quickly.
Additionally, women who perceive they received poor care, support, or communication during the delivery and post-partum process are more likely to experience PTSD symptoms following birth. This can include not feeling heard or listened to by hospital staff, not being communicated with during times of uncertainty, or feeling a lack of empathy or compassion during difficult situations or outcomes.
What Are the Symptoms of Postpartum PTSD?
There are several mental health disorders that can affect women after childbirth. Many people are familiar with postpartum depression, which affects between 10 and 15% of women. However, psychiatrists also often treat other postnatal conditions including:
- Postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder
- Postpartum psychosis
- Postpartum bipolar disorder
- Postpartum anxiety
- Postpartum PTSD
All of these conditions affect women in the weeks and months following giving birth, and they share several symptoms, which can make it difficult for mental health professionals to make an accurate diagnosis. For instance, it is not uncommon for someone experiencing birth trauma or postpartum PTSD to be diagnosed with PPD and be given medication or put on a treatment plan that does not address the actual cause of their symptoms.
Our psychiatrists at Thriving Lane are uniquely experienced and passionate about treating women’s health. We employ an evidence-based, trauma-informed framework that allows us to look at each women’s story individually and make an accurate diagnosis. Our postpartum therapy treatments are holistic and integrative, pulling from multiple disciplines and considering your health and body as a whole when providing you with the tools to better your mental health and truly thrive.
When a woman comes through our doors with birth trauma, there are several symptoms we look for to identify and treat postpartum PTSD:
- Re-experiencing the trauma: People with PTSD often relive their traumatic experience after the event and danger have already passed. This can include experiencing intrusive thoughts, vivid flashbacks, and nightmares. As a new mother with birth trauma, this would mean mentally reliving your childbirth again and again.
- Avoiding potential triggers: It is also common for people with PTSD to avoid places, events, or situations that remind them of the trauma. This can look like avoiding the hospital where you gave birth or the doctor that delivered the baby. Women may miss follow-up appointments or resist talking about the birth with health professionals or loved ones.
- Displaying mood and cognition changes: Postpartum PTSD can cause women to have a depressed mood, feel detached from others or their newborns, and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. You may have distorted thoughts about yourself or others, experience brain fog, or have difficulties recalling details about childbirth.
- Experiencing alterations in reactivity or arousal: Postpartum PTSD can make new mothers more irritable, anxious, or hypervigilant. You may experience sleep disturbances, insomnia, and panic attacks.
How Can Online Counseling Help Treat Birth Trauma?
If you are displaying symptoms of postpartum PTSD or are having difficulty coping with a traumatic birth, a psychiatrist can help you process these events and discover treatments that allow you to heal from your trauma. We take a unique approach to mental health at Thriving Lane and use a variety of treatments to help you thrive, including medications, EMDR, and cognitive therapies when needed. We also incorporate talk therapy, exercise and nutrition guidance, and meditation and mindfulness practices into our treatment plans.
We understand birth trauma is a very real condition and is often difficult to talk about. If your baby was born healthy despite a difficult labor and delivery, you may feel your emotional and mental distress following the birth is overlooked or unwarranted. However, we’re here to help you feel heard and remember that your mental and physical wellbeing is important.
Ready to talk? Schedule an appointment with us today.
Thriving Lane services are available in Florida, Georgia, Alaska, Minnesota, and Nebraska. Connect with us in Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Atlanta, Athens, Macon, Alpharetta, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau, Sitka, Minneapolis, Nebraska, Omaha, Lincoln, Bellevue.