Over the last couple of years I have met many women who are struggling with impact of traumatic birth, but who have either been suffering in silence or haven’t been able to get the support they need to process and start to recover from their birth experience. Birth trauma isn’t limited to physical injury. I personally think that any time a woman feels dis-empowered, disrespected, violated or otherwise poorly treated or unsupported during her labour and birth, trauma can result. Some of the things these women report: feeling extremely anxious, sick, upset, or angry when driving past their birthing place; feeling apprehensive or anxious about subsequent pregnancy; and feeling like the trauma they experienced prevented them from having the best possible start in bonding and attaching to their baby.
As someone who also experienced a tough first birth and recovery, I think there needs to be a lot more awareness about the effects of a difficult birth on a mother’s (and family’s) well-being. This is one of the reasons that I love the Women’s Health Clinic’s Coping with Change series, held at the Birth Centre. The very first series topic is birth experiences. The facilitators explain that in our baby-focused culture, many women never get a chance to really talk about or process their own experience, and so for participants to do so in a safe and supportive environment can be very helpful.
I decided to add a section to this website on resources for coping with this type of postpartum mental health issue but found there was virtually nothing online. I reached out to Dr. Carrie Lionberg, a well-respected local psychologist who specializes in postpartum depression, via Twitter. Here is what she said:
“Good first step would be a given woman’s Public Health Nurse, who can provide pathway to service w/n Winnipeg healthcare system. Another route, if she has a Benefits Plan/EAP [Employee Assistance Program], to seek counseling on a private basis. The Anxiety Disorders Association of Manitoba (ADAM) may also be helpful, given that a major symptom of trauma is anxiety.”
I have added these suggestions to the page on Emotional and Physical Birth Trauma.