Traumatic Birth & PTSD

I highly suggest for you to read this article from Midwifery Today, first published in Winter 2006, Issue 80. Article Here! In summary, it talks about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in mothers after a traumatic childbirth experience. How does this occur? How does one identify and treat PTSD? How does one go through another pregnancy and labor after PTSD? I thoroughly enjoyed the article. I felt it was extremely informative about a subject that tends to be “taboo”, 10 years later, among mother groups. I loved how the article touched on the notion of “all that matters is a healthy baby”. I’ve personally felt such a remark was a slap in the face of the mother. We should not be shamed for being displeased with our childbirth experience even if we do have a healthy child afterwards. Also, what about those mothers that experienced a traumatic birth experience and did not have a healthy baby, or baby at all afterwards. If you recall, I helped a dear friend write up her devastating childbirth and child loss experience to hand out among the AL legislators this session. How do you think she feels?

Childbirth and motherhood is an emotional cocktail experience. You feel euphoria, pain, exhaustion, nervousness, completeness, and a whole host of other overwhelming emotions in a series and all at once. So, when you find yourself being bullied by your trusted healthcare provider into procedures you do not want or agree with; it is disheartening. The pivotal moment of labor is NOT the time to find out your needs and wants are not supported or to be taken advantage of to achieve someone else’s results. This is exactly what many OBs and some midwives do. They agree to support your desires during labor; just to refuse, belittle, and scare you into doing their birthplan. Many women give in to the healthcare provider just to escape the experience.

My childbirth experience was far from what I desired. I knew using an OB instead of a CPM, delivering in a hospital instead of a birth center or at home, would put me in a position of fighting for my rights at a difficult time. I made sure my husband understood my birthplan and, and that as my partner; he had to be my voice too. Together we accomplished a vaginal, unmedicated birth; but not without complications. Complications began the moment my OB intervened with the labor process. My husband almost lost his wife, and we had a trying first month with our new daughter. Again, because of the many contradicting opinions from various healthcare professionals (OB, Lactation Consultants, Pediatricians, and nurses).

Now, going through pregnancy again, and knowing I will be going through labor again; it is scary. I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having anxiety, fear, and some PTSD going into this labor. The difference that gives me the ability of control these thoughts, is I fully trust my healthcare provider…my midwives. We are on the same page, we have the same viewpoints. They have been supportive and educational. They understand my previous experience. They’ve listened to my fears and recommended use of their psychologist. Which leads me into my next discussion.

Today I had my 32 week appointment. The baby was in a frank breech position, but has transitioned into a normal birthing position. (I’ve been doing pre-natal yoga every morning and corrective posturing techniques to encourage his transition.) The midwife asked me several questions about how I’ve been feeling. We decided together to do one more 4 week appointment, since the pregnancy has been so easy and this is my second go around. That would have placed me at the 36 week mark, when I went into labor previously. The midwife decided to push the appointment to my 35th week mark, so they can perform a few labs (Strep B) and turn in my birthplan and various other forms. She suggested if I did have any changes of uterine pressure, Braxton-Hicks contractions often, or anything like that; we could do a cervical thickness check to determine my chances of pre-term labor. Do you see the difference there? It is up to me…it is MY choice. She isn’t requiring me.

Maybe if more mothers experienced that type of support during childbirth, the transition into motherhood would be easier. Many mothers would not suffer from PPD or PTSD. Just maybe, the experience would be described as powerful, euphoric, and empowering; not scary, painful, and exhausting. During my childbirth class last Tuesday, there were 4 of us. 2 first time moms and 2 seasoned. The seasoned moms, who were also using midwives, described labor as beautiful and powerful. The first time moms, who were using OBs and the hospital, described labor as hard, painful, and fearful. My heart ached for those moms, ached for the experience they are missing out on.

If you had a traumatic birth and difficult time transitioning into motherhood; seek professional counseling. The very act of talking about your difficulties will begin your healing process.


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