Navigating Birth Trauma While Caring for Your Child
Giving birth can be one of the most incredible and unforgettable experiences of your life. No expectant mother wants to think about what could go wrong throughout the process or how it might impact them or their baby. Unfortunately, things don’t always go according to plan.
Birth trauma can occur for a variety of reasons. You may have had complications during your pregnancy that made birth difficult. Or, you might have experienced an emergency during labor. Even complications with your child or an unpleasant experience can lead to this type of post-traumatic stress disorder. So, what can you do if you’ve experienced it?
What Does Birth Trauma Look Like?
If you’ve experienced birth trauma, it’s important to understand some of the common signs and symptoms. You might try to dismiss it as something else or try to “ignore” it for the sake of your baby. But this type of trauma and the emotions it stirs up will always demand to be felt. You can’t push it down forever.
Birth trauma often starts during labor. You might feel scared, unsupported, or even helpless. Once you get home after giving birth, you might feel numb or ashamed. You might even suffer from panic attacks. Unfortunately, these symptoms can make it difficult to focus on anything—including caring for your child. That can cause a downward spiral of guilt, anxiety, and depression. You might even start to think you’re not able to be a good mother. That isn’t true.
How to Navigate Birth Trauma
Birth trauma can be treated in a variety of ways. The best thing you can do for yourself and your little one is to open up about what you’ve experienced. Talk to your midwife, doctor, or whoever was with you during labor, and tell them how you feel and how you felt during the process.
Be practical when it comes to getting the help you need. Don’t shy away from asking family and friends for their support and help. That might include asking them to watch the baby for a while so you can rest or letting them take other tasks off your plate so you can truly heal.
Self-care is extremely important when you’re trying to heal from birth trauma. It doesn’t make you selfish or a bad mother. You can’t give your child the care and attention they need when you’re struggling. As the old saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Things as simple as prioritizing sleep, eating healthy meals, staying active, and meditating can make a big difference in how you feel. Make self-care a part of your daily routine, and it will be easy to prioritize it.
Seeking Professional Help
Perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself (and your child) if you’ve experienced birth trauma is to talk to a mental health professional. It’s especially important if you feel like you don’t have anyone else you can talk to or if there’s a lack of support from family, friends, or the medical team you worked with.
A therapist will help you uncover what may have triggered your trauma. While it’s not always easy to relive that experience in your mind, it’s often a necessary first step toward healing. Then, you’ll learn strategies and skills to manage your symptoms and take control of your life again rather than letting those invasive, fearful thoughts take over.
No new mother should have to experience any kind of trauma while in labor. Unfortunately, it happens more than most of us would like to think about. If you’re struggling with the aftereffects of birth trauma, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
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.