Normally, when people think of trauma, they think of physical trauma to the body. But there’s unspoken truths that go with trauma. As a result, many people suffer with emotional trauma from a life event.
While giving birth is perceived as a beautiful event where a woman becomes a mother, many women have lingering physical and emotional trauma as a result of birth.
Birthing a child is not all sunshine and rainbows. Birth plans can’t always be followed and sometimes nothing goes as planned. It’s in these times that women experience lasting depression, anxiety and guilt after giving birth.
If you are struggling with healing your mental wellbeing after birth, you’re not alone!
Let’s look at some simple ways to help you heal from the emotional trauma you have from labor and delivery!
Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you click on them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.
What Defines A Traumatic Birth?
Well… It’s not a clear cut answer. It’s all a matter of how personal perception!
One woman may feel her birth experience was traumatic, while another woman with a similar experience may deem her birth as a success. It doesn’t mean either woman is right or wrong. It all just depends on the lasting effects that birth experience has on you now!
After giving birth (even years later), if you’re left feeling guilty, anxious or depressed when thinking back on your labor and delivery, then it may be a traumatic birth.
Here’s some examples of what might give rise to a traumatic birth experience:
- Prolonged or difficult labor
- Use of medication or epidural
- Emergency C-section delivery
- Breech delivery
- Premature babies
- Injury to baby during delivery
- Lack of privacy
- Impersonal hospital staff
- Medical intervention
The list can go on and on! If you had any of these experiences on this list, then you may feel your having troubles healing from the trauma birth caused you.
There’s no shame in feeling the way you do about your birth experience!
In fact, many women feel emotional trauma of some sort when thinking about their past labor and delivery.
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Statistics Of A Birth Trauma
Traumatic birth experiences are more common than you think!
25 to 34% of women report their births as being traumatic. Of the 25-34% of women who experience a traumatic birth, it’s important to note many women recover and DO NOT develop postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
While postpartum depression is fairly common after delivery, PTSD is not. In fact, only 9% of women who had a traumatic birth developed PTSD.
It’s a common misconception that PTSD is mostly diagnosed to war veterans. However, anyone can experience symptoms of PTSD depending on the trauma they’ve experienced from horrible situations.
Although postpartum depression is commonly diagnosed, it is often diagnosed in place of PTSD.
Symptoms of PTSD include:
- Avoidance of things that remind you of the trauma
- Excessive worry or hypervigilance
- Feelings of depression or guilt
If you think you are experiencing PTSD as a result of a traumatic birth, speak to a health care professional with expertise in trauma.
Ways To Heal…
1. Take Time
Rose Kennedy once said, “It is said ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”
I feel this quote completely applies to healing from a traumatic birth… It takes time!
Over the time it takes you to heal from the emotional trauma of childbirth, the pain lessens. It does not disappear. Time only allows you to process what happened.
Through processing the events of a traumatic birth, you will (hopefully) accept what happened to you.
If you just gave birth and you’re struggling with healing from this birth, there’s no time limit on healing. While some may think you simply “need to move on”… That’s not how emotional healing works.
Emotional healing is similar to physical healing, you body simply doesn’t bounce back after an injury or trauma. It takes time to heal!
2. Focus On The Positives
In light of such as traumatic events, it’s hard to focus on the positives that came out of that event. It’s much easier to focus on the negatives when the experience was so terrible.
However, in every bad situation there’s always something good. Again, it’s all just a matter of perception.
Sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of all the negatives. No, you don’t want to focus on the negatives. But writing them down can help you process through your feelings on what you experienced.
Now, write down the positives. Even the littlest positive thing you can think of that happened during labor or after delivery.
Negative: Epidural started to wear off during pushing.
Positive: I was able to feel when to push because the epidural wore off, possibly decreasing my delivery time.
3. Forgive Yourself
Through any traumatic event, many people tend to turn their pain inward. Instead of being upset with the circumstances of the event, they blame themselves.
You may be feeling guilty, angry or disappointed in yourself.
However, just because you could not control the way your birth experience went doesn’t mean it was your fault. Sometimes things happen in life that can’t be control (no matter how hard we try).
If you’re feeling upset with yourself because of a traumatic birth, you have two options:
- Forgive yourself! Realize what happened was not your fault.
- Live with your emotions, but treat yourself with kindness.
4. Love Your Body
Even though you had a rough labor and delivery, your body did an amazing feat. You birthed a human being!
It’s time to show your body the respect it deserves! Taking care of your physical body will help improve your emotional wellbeing as well.
Here’s how you can treat your body better:
- Exercise while your baby naps
- Try yoga to promote relaxation
- Take a bubble bath
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5. Take Extra Time To Bond
Bonding with your baby is not an immediate process. If you had a traumatic birth, it can make it harder to bond with your baby. That doesn’t mean you will never feel a bond….
It just means bonding will take more time!
To speed-up bonding between you and baby try the following:
- Skin-to-skin contact
- Breastfeeding (if possible)
- Infant message
- Put your baby in a chest carrier or a wrap (baby wear)
For more help with bonding read the article Bonding With A Newborn Takes Time.
6. Don’t Make Quick Decisions
Don’t make quick decisions when it comes to having another child. Both your body and mind need time to heal from a traumatic birth.
Some women make the decision to have another baby right away because they want a “do over.” It makes sense… Have another baby to have a different, more positive outcome.
But if you rush into another baby without dealing with the trauma from the first delivery, it could end up making things worse emotionally and physically.
On the other hand, some women want to make a quick decision when it comes to permanent birth control. Permanent is forever. Just because (right now) you feel you don’t want any more children because of a traumatic birth doesn’t mean that’s the correct decision for your family.
Take time and process your feelings before making any decisions in regards to having or not having more children.
7. Talk To Your OBGYN/Midwife
This is essential if you are having another baby and still feel the effects of a traumatic birth. Even if you’ve forgiven yourself and an appropriate amount of time has passed, you may still have lingering anxiety about giving birth again.
Every labor and delivery is different. No matter if it’s your first child or your sixth, you never know what’s going to happen with a birth.
Yes, you could have another horrible birth experience, but you could also have a fantastic one! To make it a fantastic one, talk to your OBGYN or midwife.
Your doctor can do a couple things for you when it comes to your another birthing experience…
First, your doctor can listen to your concerns and fears about another birth. Second, you can discuss the different options in response to different traumatic situations. Third, you can put your mind at ease knowing you have someone who’s aware of your feelings with the last traumatic birth.
8. Talk About Your Birth Experience
One of the ways negative feelings come about or get worse is by bottling them up. If you bottle up your experience and try and forget about it without processing it…
Your guilt, anger, disappointment and hurt will only get worse! Negative experiences never heal with time if you ignore them.
With that being said… You need to talk to someone about your birth experience. Be honest with yourself and realize your hurting and your mental wellbeing is suffering because of it. There’s nothing wrong with feeling the way you feel as a result of a traumatic birth.
Here are some ways to talk about your birth experience:
- Find a support group in your area
- Talk to a counselor or psychologist
- Find a supportive friend
- Write down your birth experience (either online or on paper)
Think of it this way… Your birth experience needs to be heard and can help another women overcome her feelings toward a traumatic birth as well!
I wrote this article about traumatic birth because my first birth was traumatic. It’s a very long birth story, but it was like a snowball effect. One bad thing lead to another terrible thing for labor and delivery.
To help you understand my own experience and why it was traumatic for me, here’s a quick list of events that occurred in my own traumatic birth:
- Water broke at 2cm
- Induced with Pitocin
- Back labor for 28 hours
- Resuscitation for my son
- No skin-to-skin contact or bonding immediately after birth
- My son was in ICU for six hours after birth
- Spent 5 days in the hospital
- Troubles breastfeeding because of latch issues, then low supply
- Took a while to bond with my son
Not the greatest labor. Nothing was in my control and the worst of it all was my son having to be resuscitated. Thankfully, my son is alive and is beyond healthy and happy now!
Even though I gave birth over two years ago, I’m still feeling anxiety when thinking back on my labor and delivery.
Now that I’m in the third trimester of pregnancy, the one thing I’m anxious about is giving birth. So anxious in fact that I keep putting off packing a hospital bag because each time I think about it… I start having a panic attack.
Although I’ve taken time to process, forgive myself and talking about my birth experience, I’m still praying for a much more positive birth outcome. I don’t want to go through a similar situation twice.
Remember, if you’re having troubles healing from a traumatic birth, you’re not alone! Reach out to a therapist or friend to help you heal and give yourself some much needed time and tender loving care.