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5 things I wish every woman knew about birth trauma

by lizzi (follow)
Helping plant the seeds of positive birth. www.sproutbirthing.com.au
Birth Trauma (44)      April Contest (21)     
It’s not your fault

Your expectations were not too high; you should have been able to trust your care provider to treat you with respect; sometimes health issues come up / shit happens. Could you have made different choices? Maybe. Would those choices have led to a different outcome? Maybe. It’s still not your fault. You made the best choices that you could with the information that you had.

I’ll say it again. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!

If your trauma was caused by not knowing what to expect during a “normal” birth then we can safely blame a society that tells us that we don’t need to know about birth.

If it was caused by obstetric violence then we can safely blame the perpetrator.

If it was caused by unexpected health issues then chances are that no-one is to blame and it was one of those awful, horrible things that “just happens”.


Caesareans can be traumatic. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s not about mode of birth

Often birth trauma is not caused by physical trauma, but by emotional trauma. Feeling isolated, abandoned, uninformed, helpless.

It is entirely possible to find these feelings in ANY birth. Just because a birth may look “ideal” from the outside doesn’t mean it was and doesn’t take away from your trauma. I’ve seen all manner of births described as “traumatic” – elective caesareans, emergency caesareans, straight forward vaginal births. I’ve seen women describe their very quick accidental homebirths as traumatic.

Just because your birth could be someone else’s “perfect birth” doesn’t make your trauma less real or less valid.

Your feelings can change

You may feel traumatised today and joyful tomorrow. You may feel grateful today and tomorrow you might see a photo from the birth that triggers flashbacks and sends you into a spiral of doubt, trauma and tears. And later that day you may look at your baby and feel nothing but love and elation.

Every feeling is valid and “normal”. As is the regular change in feelings. Ensure that you have a trusted friend or relative that you can talk about your feelings with. Explore them and see what they may be trying to tell you.

Most women find that their feelings don’t begin to solidify until around 6 weeks – once all the hormones start to settle and you have a bit of “space” from the event. If, by this stage, you find that your feelings are impacting on your quality of life and your ability to mother it’s a good idea to seek professional assistance.

Healthy babies deserve healthy mums! Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

It’s more common than you think

Currently the statistics state that around 1 in 3 women will experience a traumatic birth. That’s a lot of women! If you ask around you will likely find that many women in your local mother’s group, or online pregnancy and birth support page, or even in your family have experienced traumatic birth.

The reason we don’t realise how common it is, is because women are not encouraged to speak up about birth trauma. We are told that birth is “just one day” or that it “doesn’t matter” or that we should just be “grateful for a healthy baby” (if we actually have a healthy baby!). Once you start talking about birth trauma you may be surprised to learn who has experienced it and for what reasons.

Mums matter too!

You may find that when you first speak about your trauma that people don’t really get it. After all…you and bub are alive, right? What more did you really want?

No matter what – it is NOT unreasonable for you to expect to be treated with respect and compassion. It’s not unreasonable to feel traumatised if your rights have been violated (and your body along with them). It’s not unreasonable to feel traumatised if you suffered a life threatening condition.

YOU matter. Your feelings matter. Your emotional and mental health matters. Your physical health matters.

After all – your healthy baby DESERVES a healthy mum!

Birth Talk are a wonderful resource for further information about birth trauma.

Further reading by lizzi

Why I'm joining the birthing revolution

The vessel

Just one day

What being bullied says about you

Obstetric violence: Stop burying your head in the sand!

Obstetric violence: Assigning responsibility

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