Recognising Birth Trauma
Birth is a significantly life-changing experience. Often, it can feel as if you’ve entered a tunnel, only to resurface in a completely new world, surrounded by unfamiliarity and unpredictability. For many, this may be exciting and empowering. For others, it may be unbearably overwhelming, bringing about feelings of fear and sadness. Where did I go wrong? Why did this happen to me? How do I make these feeling go away? It can take immense courage to admit that you’re struggling, and even more courage to seek help. But it is with this first act of bravery that you can begin journeying towards finding freedom in parenthood.
Research has shown that experiences in pregnancy and labour can contribute to how we feel entering into parenthood. In some cases, these experiences are negative — whether that be physical or psychological — which can be traumatic and, as a result, leave women feeling unable to cope during the new feat of parenthood. Recent studies have found that 30% of women find some aspect of giving birth traumatic, which equates to around 200,000 women per year starting their journey into motherhood with serious difficulties or overwhelming emotions.
Unfortunately, the high volume of women experiencing birth trauma is not yet reflected in the accessibility to birth trauma services. Therefore, as the founder of Birth Trauma Resolution Brighton, I am devoted to helping women achieve freedom from their birth trauma, as well as raise awareness and access surrounding the topic.
What is Birth Trauma?
Firstly, when talking about birth trauma, it is important to address trauma in general. By definition, trauma is described as a distressing or disturbing event that overpowers an individual’s ability to cope, evokes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel the full range of emotions and experiences. These effects occur as a result of automatic primitive responses our body undergoes during a traumatic event, which is exactly what happens during birth trauma.
When experiencing birth trauma, all bodily systems that are not crucial to survival are switched off. Therefore, the conscious part of our brain is overridden by the primitive part (the amygdala), causing our body to prepare itself for three possible survival responses — fight, flight and freeze. Blood and oxygen are diverted to our muscles and our body is flooded with adrenaline. Cortisol is pumped into our body, stopping us from feeling pain so that we can focus on survival. This is our body’s safety mechanism, which is fast, instinctive and serves to protects us. However, when our bodies are overwhelmed by trauma, the normal recording of memory doesn’t work and the traumatic memories get stuck within the amygdala. As a result of this, memories of the traumatic event can be triggered at random, or by the smallest of things around us, leading to our survival responses to switch back on. This is what causes the traumatic memories to be so debilitating in everyday life.
What Might Birth Trauma Look Like?
Birth trauma does not always occur due to a particular event, but can also take place as a result of the way a woman was made to feel, what was said to her, or how she was treated. It is a completely subjective experience and occurs when some aspect of pregnancy, labour or following birth is felt to be distressing, frightening or out of control. Therefore, any cause of trauma is a justified and legitimate reason, and not for anyone else to decide or comment on. Birth trauma is also not limited to the woman alone, but can affect other members of the family too.
Feeling traumatised following a birth is complicated because it may feel as though you shouldn’t be traumatised, often reinforced by the commonly heard phrase “as long as the baby is okay”. You will also find that having the new baby reminds you of the trauma, meaning you may try to push the memory aside and ignore it altogether, maybe even avoiding things or places which remind you of your pregnancy, labour or post natal period. However, the body remembers what the conscious mind wants to forget, meaning that trauma can be unexpectedly triggered and appear in the form of flashbacks and nightmares, or resurfacing when you come to plan a new pregnancy. Therefore, it is important to seek help following birth trauma, in order to prevent the immobilising effects that can stop you regaining control of your life.
Birth Trauma Resolution
If you have been affected by birth trauma, know that there is hope for a trauma-free life. Taking that initial step to get help from a trained Birth Trauma Practitioner is daunting, yet it may be one key to eradicating the effects of your trauma and regaining control over your life. Birth Trauma Resolution Brighton works with women, men and health care professionals looking to access this freedom, through rewiring the brain’s activation of the traumatic memories and transforming them into mundane, trauma-less memories.
If birth trauma is something you have experienced, and freedom from its impact is something you are looking for, please do get in touch with me for a free initial consultation — contact details can be found at BirthTraumaResolutionBrighton.com. You are not alone in this. Together, we will see you step out of trauma and into enjoying the journey of parenthood.
Image and blog by Jessica Law - https://www.throughmyeyescreative.com/