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Recovery from a traumatic birth

Birth trauma that leads to PTSD can affect happiness, self-confidence, security and parent-baby bonding. Effective, fast treatment from a qualified Birth Trauma therapist– often in one or two sessions- can permanently change traumatic birth memories into normal memories, giving freedom from flashbacks and nightmares and other symptoms of PTSD. The treatment is suitable for mothers, fathers, birth companions, midwives and doctors.

What is ‘birth trauma’?

Most of us associate the word trauma with a devastating, life-changing event that shapes the way we feel, think and react forever after. It is a word that we often associate with severe and obvious physical or psychological damage.

Women are often encouraged after a difficult birth to feel grateful that they have a live, healthy baby and that they themselves are more or less in good physical shape. That is often seen as a ‘successful outcome’.

What is not always thought about is the emotional impact on mothers and fathers of a birth that -whilst it has resulted in a physically intact mother and baby, and which might seem on paper to have been ‘normal’- is so far from their hopes and expectations that it has had devastating, lasting effects. It doesn’t have to have been a ‘clinically’ traumatic experience as by definition, ‘experience’ is a unique event felt by the person having it. What might feel normal and acceptable for one woman can be horrifying and devastating for another. Many mothers and fathers can suffer in silence from undiagnosed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for many years after the birth.

Why should birth trauma be treated?

The shock of a traumatic birth can affect on-going happiness, confidence, self-esteem, relationships, parenting and bonding. It leaves women at greater risk of postnatal depression (anxiety and postnatal depression are not the same as PTSD, but can be a result of untreated PTSD). Unfortunately they are too often treated as the same thing, with talking therapies, CBT or medication. Women themselves may think that they just have to ‘get on with it’ and that feeling this way is something that will resolve with time. For some mothers, time will lessen the bad memories, but for others, whether they are aware or not, the traumatic memories can affect every area of their lives, giving them less enjoyment of life than there might have been. For some parents, the effects have much deeper impact, sometimes to the point of not having another longed-for child for fear of another bad experience.

Many hospitals will offer a ‘debriefing’ meeting after a difficult birth, where the facts are gone through and any questions answered. This can be very useful in helping parents to understand what happened during the birth and perhaps why it might have happened, but what debriefing doesn’t do is address the emotional impact – shock, fear, vulnerability, failure, helplessness, whatever the feelings are, which can still be stuck in the brain and the sufferer will still be reacting to them every day.

Sometimes talking about what happened can make things worse, as the parents have not only to return to the place where the trauma happened, but to relive the event all over again during the discussion.

The subconscious is powerful, with most of our decisions affected by previous memory, even when we are not aware of it; having PTSD means that we react to any similar situation as though the trauma is still happening, as our brains pattern-match all the time, where any place or situation might trigger thoughts of the birth. For instance, if a mother was terrified during her birth that her baby was not going to survive, she may become a hyper-vigilant parent, unable to relax and constantly watching out for situations that might harm her baby. Other women will find it impossible to return to the hospital where the trauma happened, or even go past it, as the memories are vivid, and the brain will be signalling danger. This constant vigilance and feeling of danger, along with flashbacks and nightmares is exhausting, miserable and draining and it is not surprising that depression happens and quality of life is less.

What is the best way to resolve birth trauma?

As we finally awaken to the realisation that birth PTSD needs specialist attention, there are different methods available to treat it, with different degrees of success. Traditional talking therapies and support can help, and sometimes medication, but there is a more effective way. Birth trauma therapy, where the negative emotions of trauma memory are turned into a normal memory, is a powerful, fast (most often one or two treatments are enough) deeply relaxing and effective treatment, allowing the sufferer release from the constant reminders of their trauma and able to move on. It is not a ‘temporary fix’, where the bad memories will return; once the emotional trauma is resolved, it is permanent.

Birth Trauma Resolution therapy is based on Human Givens, and is accredited by the Royal College of Midwives; a qualified, certified practitioner will have a solid grounding in how to help.

This therapy can also be used for women suffering from tocophobia (fear of giving birth), or the pain and sadness of miscarriage. Quite often fathers and birth companions need treatment too, as although they haven’t given birth themselves, they have suffered trauma from watching someone they love go through an intense and difficult experience.