Whether you are a first-time mother or a mom of six, any mother will attest: each labor story is different.
While a majority of birth stories are happy experiences, not all labor journeys go according to plan.
There is a common expectation that women go through labor easily and are surrounded by that immediate post-birth glow as they hold their babies, overjoyed. The truth is that this is not always the narrative.
It is estimated that 25-34 percent of women experience traumatic births.
For the women who have gone through such an experience, the post-pregnancy process can be filled with anger, regret and self-doubt.
While the birth story may differ from mother to mother, one thing is certain: the scars of a traumatic birth experience can be long-lasting and wide-reaching for both mother and child.
Addressing your traumatic birth experience earlier rather than later can ensure you receive the care you need during your postpartum period.
The Impacts Of Birth Trauma
Mothers that experience birth trauma have been frequently shown to develop PTSD. Researchers estimate that as much as 17 percent of mothers experience postnatal PSTD symptoms.
Other effects include a heightened risk of depression, sleep issues and anxiety.
Interestingly, in a study by Jennifer Patterson, the results suggested that while healthcare professionals realized that the labor process can be traumatic for mothers, many of them are unable to provide adequate support – particularly to mothers who face an increased risk of PTSD.
It is important to note that a traumatic birth experience can look different for every mother, and so can their responses to the incident.
Some women may struggle to cope with the labor progressing too slowly, the loss of control during labor, or complications during their labor (such as having an emergency caesarean section).
According to BBC’s The Effect of Childbirth No-one Talks About, women who feel a loss of control during their birth experience are more likely to experience PTSD.
Finally, mothers who experience birth trauma can face increased challenges in bonding with their child, and some studies even indicate difficulty breastfeeding.
Learn The Mechanics Behind Your Labor Story – Without The Emotion
It can be difficult to relive your birth experience with your emotions running high.
However, looking at the situation through practical eyes can help you understand the medical reasons behind your experience – and why it went the way it did.
To do this, speak to your doctor or access the medical notes from your labor.
If you experienced a medical complication during pregnancy/labor, do your research on the condition and understand the harms it could have caused you or your baby.
If you suspect there is evidence of medical malpractice, speaking to a medical neglect lawyer may help you ascertain if you have a legal case.
It can also give you back some of that control most mothers feel they lose during such vulnerable experiences.
If you find the process too difficult, reach out to your spouse or a family member for a fresh pair of eyes.
Build A Support Team You Feel Comfortable With
Last, but certainly not least, a strong support team can help mothers process and move on from a traumatic birth.
In addition to a strong support circle at home, you can also share your experience with other mothers in local or online postpartum support groups.
If you are having a difficult time revisiting the experience or talking about it, it may also be prudent to speak to a therapist.
Your family physician or obstetrician should be able to provide referrals for therapists that specialize in postpartum sessions.
Alternatively, you can use one of the online therapy tools available for postpartum depression, such as AmWell or the PACE Moms Groups.
Above all, allow yourself to feel and experience the emotions of your birth experience.
There is no set timeline on moving past your birth trauma, and each recovery journey is incredibly unique.
The truth is that your experience in birth is no less valid than that of other mothers. Focus on forgiving yourself and moving forward stronger.