What is birth trauma and does what happened to me count?
People often associate the word trauma with major disasters or catastrophic losses, but the reality is trauma can occur any time your body experiences fight, flight or freeze and is unable to process and release that experience. It’s also super important to note that everyone experiences trauma in different ways and in varying degrees so regardless of your experience, if you are feeling distress about your birth that is valid and it counts.
So what does this mean when it comes to birth?
It means that birth trauma can occur any time you felt you were not heard or supported in your choices during your labour and birth experience or if birth happened in an unexpected way that you weren’t mentally, emotionally or physically prepared for. Birth trauma often coincides with feelings of losing control over your body, your baby and ultimately, your birth experience.
Here are some *sadly* very common circumstances that can lead to feelings ranging from dissatisfaction all the way to feeling completely traumatized:
*Lengthy labour or short and very painful labour
*Poor pain relief
* Emergency deliveries: e.g. emergency caesarean section birth, forcepts or vacuum delivery
*Manual removal of placenta
*Lack of information/ explanation/ consent
*Lack of privacy and dignity
*Birth of an injured baby – a disability resulting from birth trauma
*Baby’s stay in NICU
*Previous history of trauma * this could include your own birth experience*
*Feeling loss of control
*Feelings of shame/ disappointment that your body didn’t birth naturally or as you expected.
*Impersonal treatment or problems with medical staff’s attitudes
*Not being listened to
*Fear for baby’s well-being
*Poor postnatal care
Phew, heavy stuff I know…
Unfortunately, birth trauma is very common in our modern society. The medical model treats birth as a medical event that needs to be managed, not as a natural process that should be trusted. What also happens is that in many cases our care providers have a mentality of fear around birth which is often placed on an expectant mother unbeknownst to anyone. Sadly when this occurs, as birthing women we sometimes forget or dismiss that primal and instinctual connection to our bodies that tells us to trust birth.
Does any of this sound like what you experienced?
What’s important to remember is that your feelings surrounding your experience are valid no matter how your birth occurred. This point is worth repeating! If you are feeling stuck, hurt, sad, angry or unable to process the experience, you deserve to do this work for yourself and your babe. Now take a deep breath in and release.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky, conscious breathing is my anchor“
Thich Nhat Han