Birth Trauma- Counselling and Psychotherapy
What is it?
From my work to date, the experience that a woman has during the birth of their child can have a significant impact on their emotional wellbeing.
Birth trauma (that is psychological trauma) is a relatively new concept but it is something that I believe needs its own emphasis as to date it perhaps has been an aspect of early motherhood that has been missed.
Birth Trauma has symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and it occurs after childbirth. Some factors that contribute to birth trauma include:
- Lengthy labour or short and very painful labour
- Poor pain relief
- Feelings of loss of control
- High levels of medical intervention
- Traumatic or emergency deliveries, e.g. emergency caesarean section
- Impersonal treatment or problems with the staff attitudes
- Not being listened to
- Lack of information or explanation
- Lack of privacy and dignity
- Fear for baby's safety
- Baby's stay in SCBU/NICU
- Poor postnatal care
- Previous trauma (for example, in childhood, with a previous birth or domestic violence)
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms include those of PTSD. Women may not meet all the clinical criteria for PTSD but may have some of the symptoms of the disorder. In summary these symptoms may include:-
- The person was exposed to a traumatic event, which threatened serious injury or death: their response involved intense fear, helplessness or horror.
- Persistent re-experiencing of the event by way of recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. A person will usually feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.
- Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma.
- Symptoms of increased arousal e.g. sleeping difficulties, irritability, outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating.
In addition, my case experience to date has shown that women suffering from birth trauma may also present with:-
- A fear of sex and further childbirth (takophobia)
- Avoidance of medical procedures or health care e.g. smear tests
- Problems bonding with the baby
- Depression and low self-esteem
- Over vigilance about baby's health
Counselling provides sufferers with an opportunity to share experiences by talking through the complex feelings that have emerged from the experience. It also looks at overcoming the trauma by releasing the trauma from the body. In these cases there is a focus on relaxation and body awareness. The issues of avoidance and what is being avoided will be addressed coupled with negative thought patterns that emerge following a trauma.
For further information on birth trauma, its causes and symptoms, please refer to the following web page:- www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk
2. Summarised from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – American Psychiatric Association