Birth Trauma: when a birth experience produces some or all of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), usually due to the threat of danger or the perceived threat of danger to mother or baby.
“A birth is defined as traumatic if the woman was or believed she or her baby was in danger of injury or death, and she felt helpless, out of control, or alone, and can occur at any point in labor and birth” (Beck, 2004).
According to The Birth Trauma Association, symptoms and characteristics of birth trauma are the same as those for PTSD, and include:
- “An experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby).
- 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 their guard all the time).”
- “To care for me: Was that too much too ask?
- To communicate with me: Why was this neglected?
- To provide safe care: You betrayed my trust and I felt powerless
- The end justifies the means: At whose expense? At what price?”
These themes are thought provoking because whether you’ve experienced birth trauma or not, these questions likely resonate with any pregnant or postpartum woman. Having had two very positive birth experiences myself, I can relate to these questions.
Stay tuned for more resources and information on birth trauma coming up on Wednesday.