Birth trauma, often referred to as ‘perinatal trauma’, is not just about the physical experience of childbirth. It encompasses a myriad of experiences that individuals might encounter throughout their maternity journey. From struggles with IVF to challenges faced postnatally, such as breastfeeding difficulties, the perinatal journey can present a series of traumatic experiences. Surprisingly, as many as 30% of women & birthing individuals describe their birth as traumatic. Yet, societal sentiments like ‘your baby is healthy, that’s all that matters’ often undermine and diminish these genuine feelings of trauma.
Though each individual’s experience with birth trauma is unique, there are common symptoms to be aware of:
Interestingly, these symptoms might not always manifest immediately. They could emerge months or even years after the birthing experience. This delay could be due to dismissive comments from others or the internalized notion that as long as the baby is healthy, all is well.
Birth plans, while serving as a roadmap for the desired birthing process, can also set individuals up for disappointment and distress if not followed. It’s essential to approach birth plans with flexibility and to prepare for potential deviations. By understanding that childbirth can be unpredictable, parents can be better prepared mentally and emotionally for any surprises along the way.
It’s vital to recognise that trauma isn’t exclusive to those giving birth. Partners, including fathers, can also be deeply affected by a traumatic birthing experience. Witnessing a loved one undergo a traumatic event can leave partners feeling powerless and overwhelmed, leading to symptoms reminiscent of those experienced by birthing individuals.
Understanding birth trauma and recognising its diverse manifestations can pave the way for healing and support. Whether you or a loved one has experienced birth trauma, it’s crucial to acknowledge the feelings, discuss them openly, and seek help if needed. Through validation and understanding, the road to healing becomes clearer.