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Healing from birth trauma

The birth of a child is one of life’s most momentous occasions, but it can also be a challenging and overwhelming time.

For many women there is a fairy tale-like expectation of welcoming a child into the world. We're bombarded with gushy social media posts as our family and friends become parents and share their joy with the world. These are often nuanced with phrases like 'finally feeling complete', 'love at first sight' and beaming radiant smiles. However, under the gloss of the announcement of a new baby can be an underlying form of PTSD - birth trauma.

Those (not-so-sleepy) newborn days are often romanticised and visions of coffee dates and long walks with bub tucked neatly into the pram are pictured. Yet, many new mothers leave hospital with more than they anticipated, in the form of physical or psychological birth trauma. The truth is, few mothers have a joyful birth experience. In fact, it has been reported that up to one in three Australian women have experienced birth trauma many new mothers leave hospital with more than they anticipated and one in 10 women emerge from childbirth with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

What is birth trauma?

Birth trauma refers to the distress experienced by a mother during or after childbirth. This trauma can result from what happens during your labour and/or childbirth, but also how you feel about your experience. Although many mothers experience physical trauma from birth, the emotional and psychological trauma can be difficult to understand and process. It’s also important to understand that physical trauma can trigger psychological trauma as we grieve our former body and its capabilities. Our connection with our intimate partner can also become difficult as we navigate our new physical differences.

It’s common for mothers to feel anxious, frightened, nervous and overwhelmed just before and during the birth of a child. In many cases, the birth is nothing like you had hoped or planned - and for some, the birthing experience can be deeply traumatic. You may have experienced intense pain and physical stress during the birth, or your labour or childbirth may have required medical intervention to protect your or your baby’s health such as an emergency caesarean or assisted delivery (forceps or ventouse). Consequently, these situations might have left you feeling powerless, shocked, unprepared, unheard, disrespected, abandoned and overwhelmed. 

You may also find yourself reliving your birth experience and feeling sad over how you welcomed your child into the world. Feelings of failure, shame, anger and grief are common as you attempt to heal from birth trauma. It’s important to recognise that everyone's birth is unique, and the best-laid plans will often be left to gather dust. Take the time to sit with your feelings and don’t compare your experience to anyone else’s. Remember, your individual experience is valid and help and treatment is available. Recovery is possible.

 

How we can help

At South Pacific Private, we recognise that birth trauma can result in a number of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also increase the risk of addiction postpartum. If you have noticed changes in your behaviour, thoughts or feelings since the birth of your baby, or if you have noticed changes in your partner or someone close to you, reach out for help. Healing from birth trauma is a journey and taking the first step is the most difficult. 

At South Pacific Private, we take a comprehensive and holistic approach to the treatment of birth trauma. As well as treating trauma and equipping clients with the tools and strategies to manage the symptoms and to repair impacted relationships, our programs aim to identify and address any additional issues which may have fuelled the development of — or exacerbated the severity of — the symptoms of PTSD.

Do you or someone you know need help dealing with birth trauma? Call us now on 1800 063 332.

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