What is Partner Trauma After Birth?
We often focus on what women who give birth might have to deal with mentally after the experience. Postpartum depression (PPD), anxiety, and the baby blues are all very real.
While we should absolutely focus on those issues and providing the right kind of postpartum mental health care, it’s just as important to recognize partners and the trauma they might have to deal with after birth.
Partner trauma after birth is a type of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that fathers and other birth partners can experience after witnessing their partner go through a traumatic birth.
Let’s take a closer look at the trauma birthing partners can experience and what you can do about it if you’re struggling with the effects.
Why Does Partner Trauma Occur?
In a perfect world, every woman’s birthing experience would be comfortable and carefree. Most people understand that giving birth isn’t exactly a pain-free experience. But that isn’t typically what leads to trauma.
Unfortunately, some births can be
complicated. There can be underlying issues with the baby, health concerns about the mother, or a combination of the two. Some of those issues might be expected. Others could end up resulting in an emergency situation.
Either way, a complicated and traumatic birth can be a difficult thing to witness. As a partner, you might feel completely helpless as you watch the person you love and your unborn child struggle.
That kind of fear can continue even after the baby is born if there are continued health complications with the mother or child. You might not know where to turn or who to offer help to first. It can be an overwhelming and frightening experience.
Signs of Post-Natal PTSD
It can be tempting to ignore the signs of trauma after birth. You might think you should push your own emotions down so you can be there for your partner and your baby. But not only can you not pour from an empty cup, you can’t be the kind of partner and parent you truly want if you’re struggling with fear.
Some of the common signs of partner trauma after birth include flashbacks of what you witnessed, nightmares, or constant feelings of anxiety. You might feel like you’re constantly on edge or jumpy, and you can’t seem to relax.
Unfortunately, some partners might also struggle with a sense of detachment. You might want to avoid anything that reminds you of the traumatic experience. That includes going back to the hospital or doctor with your partner or even being around your baby.
What Can You Do?
Obviously, you don’t want to live with the effects of partner trauma for long. It’s important to be present for your family. But taking care of your mental health should always be a priority.
If your partner went through a traumatic birth and you witnessed or experienced it along with them, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Even if you don’t want to lean on your partner for support right now, professional help is often the best way to overcome the effects of this kind of trauma.
A therapist can help you get to the root cause of your trauma. You might try to avoid it at all costs. But getting to that underlying cause is the best way to start healing. From there, you can learn effective techniques to let go of things like guilt, anxiety, and fear. You can manage your symptoms while learning to ignore the negative, invasive thoughts constantly trying to take hold.
If you’re a new parent struggling with the effects of trauma after birth, contact me for information or to set up an appointment. You can let go of the trauma and be the parent and partner you’re meant 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 York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois 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.