Birth trauma is not a widely acknowledged form of Post-Traumatic Stress or Postpartum Mood Disorders, although research states that 1% - 6% of women will experience it with their child’s birth.
Dr. Edna B. Foa, director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety at the University of Pennsylvania, says, “Part of what distinguishes traumatic events from ordinary ones is that they have no template. If you don’t have a template for interpreting information, then it takes a lot more cognitive effort for your brain to assign a meaning to it.”
Post-traumatic stress symptoms can develop when the traumatic event is linked to an earlier memory, often of vulnerability and powerlessness. My clients have used the words “violated” and “bullied” when describing their birth experience. Forced to accept unwanted medical treatment or procedures performed in an insensitive manner can also create trauma. . Unexpected circumstances during delivery, either with the mother or the baby, can cause the mother to experience a threat to her and the baby’s life.
PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into three categories: re-experiencing, avoidance, and increased arousal. Here are some symptoms to look out for:
- Flashbacks, nightmares, re-experiencing the event (birth).
- Avoidance of anything that reminds the mother of the experience including thoughts, people, and places.
- Increased arousal (problems sleeping, irritability, anger, easily startled).
- Anxiety and panic attacks.
- Feeling detached, numb, and a lack of interest.