As many as 1 in 3 Australian women have experienced birth trauma.
And often a difficult childbirth leads to 1 in 10 women suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Research finds 1 in 3 Aussies have experienced a traumatic birth
According to the Maternity Consumer Network, the maternity system is at “crisis point”, with maternal suicide being the leading cause of death for women in the first 12 months after birth.
The network blames the problem on overmedicalisation during childbirth, with the national caesarean rate being 3 times the rate recommended by the World Health Organisation.
Director Alecia Staines tells ABC News: “‘All that matters is a healthy baby, so it doesn’t matter what happens to the mum’ — I don’t believe that for one second, but that’s rhetoric women hear.
“Women are coerced, they’re bullied. We hear of women being yelled at, forced into procedures they don’t really want [and] there is lack of informed consent.”
Staines tells the publication that she believes PTSD can cause all sorts of problems if not addressed.
“From not being able to bond with the baby, to marriage breakdowns,” she said.
“Women [are] having to give up their jobs because it is so debilitating when they’ve got PTSD or PND (post-natal depression) [caused] from a combination of things, but birth trauma is a contributing factor.”
3 tips on how to work through the post-birth trauma
For some mums giving birth is a happy experience mixed with a little anxiety. For others, it can prove to be incredibly traumatic, especially if things don’t go to plan.
However, if you want another baby but are held back by previous experience, it is possible to work through this and try for another pregnancy.
1. Talk to your partner or counsellor
Communicating your feelings about your previous birthing experience is a good place to start. If your partner was present during the birth chances are, your partner may also be traumatised.
Talking about it does a couple of things to help you resolve your anxiety:
It gives you another point of view and you may discover aspects of the birth you may not have realised or were, quite frankly, in too much pain to take notice of.
This may give you some closure if guilt or blame is some of what you’re feeling.
It provides you both with an opportunity to debrief, which can be confronting. If you find this too hard to face or you can’t do this with your partner, contact a counsellor or approach a midwife at your hospital.
Go over your birth notes, talking about any interventions and procedures used. Debriefing will leave you with a clearer understanding of what happened and why giving you the opportunity to speak about your experience without judgement.
Talking to someone you trust will give you the relief and validation of having your feelings acknowledged.
This encourages you to acknowledge your trauma, release negative feelings associated with it and move forward so you can see that all birthing experiences are unique and not necessarily traumatic.
2. Understand the birthing process
Really familiarising and educating yourself with the birthing process can also aid in reducing your anxiety for your next birth.
Talk to the hospital you choose to give birth at and ask them what options you have if a crisis unfolds.
By knowing what outcomes are possible, you may feel empowered and more informed when making the best choice for you and your baby during labour.
This may also give you confidence knowing you will be well looked after if something does go wrong.
3. Regular counselling
Seeking consistent counselling during the course of your pregnancy may also assist in the realisation that all births are different.
By engaging the regular services of a counsellor, you can work through anxieties associated with birth, especially during the last stages of your pregnancy. By talking about your past fears, the hope is that you can then be present and take one day at a time.
By learning to be present and learning to cope with problems as they arise, will help you deal with the unknowns of labour. As always, having a positive support network around you will always help.
If PSTD is something you are struggling with, it’s time to get the help you need.
Postnatal depression (PND) can affect mums and dads, here are the causes and symptoms and how to get help.
For more information on PTSD visit Beyond Blue.
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