TRAUMA AND PREGNANCY

July 11, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do we experience trauma in pregnancy, and more specifically, birth? To every person trauma is seen differently. Our past experiences may influence how we perceive certain situations. Every woman who goes through pregnancy gives birth in one form or another. On paper, two people can have had the exact same experience, the same outcome, yet they walk away feeling very, very different. One may feel encouraged and completely satisfied with the birth while the other may walk away from the experience with feelings of abandonment, fear, or simply discontent.

When we talk to new moms, we often ask how the baby is doing, however, I often ask how the birth was. It is important to ask both questions, but we have to truly listen to what they are saying (and they may skirt the birth part of the question). We need to change our language and ask not how the birth was but rather how they felt the birth went? Two questions that on the surface mean the same thing, but people will answer completely differently.

If we ask the first question, how was the birth, it gives the new mom an out. Similar to when we ask “how are you?” Almost automatically our response is “Good! Thanks!” While at the same time we are running through the list in our heads of all the things that are wrong. We think of these questions as pleasantries and as if people don’t actually want the real answer, as if we can’t burden them with the truth.

Asking how someone felt about something – that’s different. We immediately are asking the person to unload. We are trying to create a small modicum of safe space. Now, when you ask this question, you have to be prepared for the answer. It may not be pretty.

Personally, I felt like I had a great birth with Henry (2 years ago). During and after I felt I was supported and heard. I attempted to keep my mind open and to let things progress naturally (this is usually a huge struggle for me). Did I have the “perfect” birth? No, there was some pretty scary moments that could have severely changed the outcome, but I had great people who trusted what I was telling them and whom I trusted. However, my experience was mine. I know of other women who could have had the same situation and afterwards felt like they had been violated (maybe emotionally or even physically). A lot of how someone perceives their labour and birth is based on their previous experiences. These experiences change how we live our lives day to day, so why would they not also change how we view birth?

If a woman had gone through sexual abuse as a child, could the birth of her own child not seem like another abuse to a region of her body that has already been sensitized?

If a woman was taught that vaginal birth was the only true form of birth, but being forced into an emergency cesarean, would she not feel like she missed something valuable?

Someone may be traumatized by tearing or later finding out they have a prolapse.

Trauma comes in all forms. It can be physical, mental, or emotional. It can happen during pregnancy, labour, delivery, or postpartum. Awareness of postpartum depression is slowly increasing, but not as to why it may occur. The points listed above are just a small sample of what someone may go through or what may have been a trigger for her.

While I cannot personally help you through your trauma, I can be a sounding board, a shoulder to lean on, or someone who can help you find someone to talk to. Please reach out. You are not alone.