July 12, 2019
Birth Trauma Awareness Week: Resources for Perinatal Professionals
By: Sharon Muza, BS, LCCE, FACCE, CD/BDT(DONA), CLE | 0 Comments
July 7th through 14th 2019 is recognized as Birth Trauma Awareness Week worldwide. Current estimates are that up to one in three people describe their birth as traumatic. According to the non-profit Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth (PATTCh), “a birth is said to be traumatic when the individual (mother, father, or other witness) believes the mother’s or her baby’s life was I danger, or that a serious threat to the mother’s or her baby’s physical or emotional integrity existed.” It is the perception of the person experiencing the trauma that defines whether the experience is traumatic, rather than the perception of other people involved in the experience.
Between five and nine percent of people who experienced a traumatic birth go on to develop full-blown Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Some symptoms of PTSD include:
- Intrusive recollections, such as nightmares; flashbacks; feeling the traumatic event is recurring; intense psychological or physiological reactions when reminded of the event
- Avoidance/numbing reactions, such as avoiding thoughts feelings, location or people associated with the trauma; Avoiding situations in which it can recur; amnesia of parts of the event; diminished interest in significant activities; detachment from others; inability to feel loving feelings; sense of foreshortened future.
- Hyperarousal, for example, difficulty sleeping; irritability or angry outbursts; difficulty concentrating; hypervigilance; exaggerated startle response; panic attacks or symptoms
- Functional impairment, such as significant distress in social, occupational or other areas of functioning
Some facts on traumatic birth
People who experience a traumatic birth may face additional challenges in attaching to and parenting their newborn.
Health care providers, partners, doulas, family members, and friends can also experience birth trauma after attending a birth they felt was traumatic.
Suppressed trauma may surface when a subsequent pregnancy occurs.
Birth trauma is NOT a postpartum mood disorder, but the two often occur simultaneously.
One in four birthing mothers experience physical damage as a result of giving birth.
People who describe their birth as traumatic report that during birth they experienced lack/loss of control, communication issues, and insufficient practical/emotional support. Birth trauma survivors feel that their trauma could have been prevented by reducing the above situations.
Childbirth educators can help
No one plans to have a traumatic birth, or even expects their birth to be traumatic. Childbirth educators have a responsibility to prepare families for this situation if (when?) it does occur. We should be presenting this topic prenatally during our childbirth classes, help families identify pre-existing risk factors and be sure to include information and resources for help and support (including local resources) that they can access after both the class and the birth are over.
What do you do in your childbirth classes to make sure that birthing people and their support team are aware of this issue? Let us know in the comments section below.
The Birth Trauma Association
Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth (PATTCh)
Australasian Birth Trauma Association
Solace for Mothers
Traumatic Childbirth by Beck, Driscoll, and Watson
Note: Many of the resources listed above also offer online communities on a variety of social media platforms for peer to peer support for families.
Beck, C. (2004a). Birth trauma: In the eye of the beholder. Nursing Research 53(1): 28-35.
Beck, C. (2004b). Post-traumatic stress due to childbirth. Nursing Research 53(4): 216-224.
Hollander, M. H., van Hastenberg, E., van Dillen, J., van Pampus, M. G., de Miranda, E., & Stramrood, C. (2017). Preventing traumatic childbirth experiences: 2192 women's perceptions and views. Archives of women's mental health, 20(4), 515–523. doi:10.1007/s00737-017-0729-6
TagsPTSD Birth Trauma Cheryl Beck Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after childBirth Sharon Muza Solace for Mothers Birth Trauma Awareness Week