Birth trauma and PTSD

You are not alone!! Approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of women say that their births were traumatic and approximately 3.1% of women may go on to develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth. Although statistics vary and others studies have suggested this figure could be around 5.6% or even as high as 15.7% in high risk groups.

The Birth Trauma Association estimate that around 20,000 women a year develop PTSD and up to 200,000 more women may develop some signs of PTSD. 

These statistics are so shocking, there is so little care in this field and this is one reason I feel so passionate about women and men like you who have suffered birth trauma and I’m passionate that you receive the help and support you need.

I’m so sorry if you feel you are included in these figures, but know you are not alone, even if you feel alone and isolated at the moment, help is out there and I can support and help you through this difficult time and the symptoms you’re experiencing. You may be experiencing a ‘mixed bag’ of symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, fear and avoidance of certain situations, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance and psychosexual difficulties. You also may feel like avoiding your baby and feel detached from the baby or your loved ones. Please be reassured that if you’re traumatised from your birth these symptoms can be normal and are a way of your brain trying to process the trauma!

You are not a bad person if you feel disconnected from your baby or if you avoid playgroups, the hospital where your baby was born or pregnant women. You are doing the best you can to cope with a really difficult situation. And I’m here to support you.

The causes of post childbirth PTSD are varied, emergency situations and medical intervention can be traumatic, as can poor communication during your birth, the perception of unsafe care, lack of care or even lack of feeling supported during your birth. You may have experienced some or all of these things. Please know that even if your birth on paper was ‘normal’ you can still be traumatised.

Also know that PTSD is a distinct diagnosis separate from postnatal depression (PND); however both conditions may come hand in hand.

The ‘baby blues’ often occur after giving birth, as having a new baby is such an overwhelming time. However PND is often a deeper longer term depression experienced by 10-15% of mums after birth and is characterised by low mood, depression, anger, irritability and tearfulness. You may also have difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, loss of interest in sex or even thoughts of death/suicide. More details on perinatal mental health are explained in the mind factsheet.

Men and Birth partners

We also mustn’t forget that PND and PTSD can affect our husbands and partners too. PND and birth trauma can be experienced by men and birth partners; they especially have the potential of developing PTSD if they have been traumatised by the birth experience. So it’s so important that birth partners seek help if they feel traumatised by a birth they have witnessed.

Birth professionals

PTSD is also prevalent in birth professionals and statistics show that 1 in 20 midwives experience PTSD. With 35% considering leaving midwifery after experiencing a traumatic perinatal event as stated by the Royal College of Midwives.

This is such a sad statistic and shows the real need for health professionals to seek support.

I would love to support you on your road to recovery. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are suffering from any of these symptoms.