Posted by Kerstin Scheel, Partner
What you need to know about Birth Trauma Awareness Week
Every year, approximately 30,000 women experience birth trauma in the UK, which can lead to not just physical health problems, but mental health problems too. What is supposed to be a joyful and happy experience, can quickly turn into a traumatic and frightening one.
What is Birth Trauma Awareness Week?
Birth Trauma Awareness Week, which runs from 7th to 14th July 2019, is a week dedicated to raising awareness of the potential risks of childbirth, to share honest accounts from parents who have experienced trauma and to guide others who are going through it now.
Many people can feel isolated or afraid to talk about such an event, so this week has been introduced to put people at ease and offer the right support and advice.
The Awareness Week has been set up by the Birth Trauma Association, a well-established charity who offer support to women who have experienced difficult births and advise parents on how to cope and overcome it.
Last year, they held fundraising events, Twitter chats and a Mumsnet campaign to raise awareness, gaining mainstream coverage in the BBC and the Guardian. Similar events will be held this year, but to increase the reach and fundraising capabilities, the charity is asking for companies to run coffee mornings, craft events or sponsored walks and talks to be held to help raise funds.
This will have done wonders to raise awareness so far, but there is still a lot that people don’t know about birth trauma.
What is birth trauma?
Birth trauma is a shorthand phrase for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after childbirth. In the majority of cases, birth trauma occurs due to a fear that you or the baby is going to die, and is common amongst women who lost a lot of blood during the birth or where the baby’s heart rate suddenly dipped.
The main symptoms are re-experiencing the trauma through flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories, avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma (including new mums and babies), constantly worrying something awful will happen to your baby or feeling guilty or unhappy that you had a traumatic birth.
Who tends to suffer from birth trauma?
First of all, we’d like to highlight that PTSD is completely normal and not a sign of weakness, which can be one of the symptoms for many women. Any traumatic experience can bring on a lot of these symptoms as was first recognised in soldiers after the war in Vietnam.
Birth trauma isn’t isolated to the birth stage of pregnancy it can occur during or after pregnancy, brought on by a loss of control, dignity, hostile attitudes of people around them or the absence of informed consent to medical procedures.
It is not entirely clear what causes birth trauma, but some factors include:
● a lengthy and painful labour
● poor pain relief
● medical intervention
● forceps birth
● emergency c-section
● maternal injuries
● problems with staff
● fear for the baby’s safety
● complications for your baby
● a previous trauma.
The fact is there are so many different reasons for PTSD to be triggered, there’s no clear way of preventing it. The great news is there are treatments and methods of coping with it! This is why awareness needs to be raised and support offered to those who are suffering.
Birth traumas affect not only the mother, but quite often the birthing partner too. This is on multiple levels as they can suffer from PTSD or struggle to cope with their partner suffering from PTSD.
It’s worth noting that birth trauma and postnatal depression (PND) are two separate issues. The symptoms are similar, however, when treated for PND, women often receive medication that won’t help or are told to move on and appreciate having a healthy baby – this can exacerbate the problem.
Treatment and coping mechanisms
There are a few different treatments out there as well as self-coping mechanisms you can try, so if you or your partner has suffered from birth trauma, we’d recommend visiting the Birth Trauma Association website for further support and advice.
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