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  • Writer's pictureInterval Health

Birth Trauma: Navigating Emotions When A Birth Doesn’t Go as Planned

When you imagine giving birth to your little one, of course, you think about things going as smoothly as possible. Most women anticipate that birth will be painful, but that’s expected and is often easy to manage. What most women don’t think about is the risk of complications during labor. Unfortunately, a 2008 government report found that 94% of deliveries in the U.S. involved some kind of complication. Some of the most common include umbilical cord issues, labor not progressing quickly enough, or an abnormal heart rate of the baby.

While doctors are used to many of these complications, and most can be remedied quickly, some are more serious than others. It can be incredibly traumatic when you realize your baby might be in an emergency situation. You might even end up dealing with the effects of that trauma for months (or years) to come if you don’t process your emotions effectively.

So, what can you do to deal with birth trauma? How can you navigate your emotions and move forward?

Don’t Play the Blame Game

Many mothers that go through a difficult birth blame themselves for whatever went wrong. You might start to think about things you wanted to do differently throughout your pregnancy or even health issues that could have contributed to your difficult delivery. It’s easy to struggle with guilt, even if your baby is perfectly healthy.

Other women will compare themselves to friends, family members, and even acquaintances on social media who have recently given birth. You might wonder why things were so “easy” for them and difficult for you. Again, this does nothing but pile on unnecessary guilt and can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression.

Choose self-compassion and kindness. Your mind and body have been through a traumatic experience, so giving yourself grace is important. Not blaming yourself will allow you to focus on being the best parent possible, and it will give you the freedom to move forward.

Lean On Your Support System

Going through any type of trauma can feel isolating. Birth trauma can cause even greater feelings of loneliness if you put your emotions aside to take care of your little one. However, emotions will always come forward eventually. The more you try to suppress them, the stronger they’re likely to become.

Don’t isolate yourself from friends and family members. Lean on your support system as much as possible, including your partner. They may not have experienced the same direct trauma, but they are your closest link to it and often your best source of support.

Make sure you talk to your healthcare provider about what you’re feeling, too. You might be confused about what really happened, or you may want some clarity about how to move forward from a physical standpoint. Any confidence and support you can get from people close to the situation can help.

Take Care of Yourself

As a new mother, it’s normal to put your baby’s needs above your own. However, you can’t pour from an empty cup. If you’re struggling with the effects of birth trauma, it’s essential to practice self-care and seek professional support if those effects impede your day-to-day activities. Taking care of yourself will help you overcome the symptoms of your trauma and will give you the energy and focus you need to be the mother you want to be.


Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New Jersey , New York, and Pennsylvania via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.


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