Giving birth is supposed to be one of the most powerful and magical moments of your life, but that isn’t always the case. For some people, the act of giving birth can be the most traumatic experience of their lives. Birth trauma, as it’s termed, can affect anywhere from 25-34% of births and the effects can vary from nightmares and flashbacks to panic attacks and other functional impairments that make it difficult for the new mom to navigate their everyday life.
Birth trauma is a fact of life for many new moms. What can you do to help you cope with a traumatic birth?
1. Recognize That Your Experience is Valid
The first thing that you need to do is to sit down and recognize that your experience, no matter what that experience entails, is valid.
Birth trauma can happen to anyone, and it’s incredibly subjective — what effects you might not impact the new mom in the next room. That doesn’t make what you’ve gone through any less real or valid.
Once you’ve taken the time to recognize your experience, you can move on to the next steps and let the healing begin.
2. Practice Non-Judgement
If you’re not the perfect loving mom right out of the gate, there’s often a lot of judgment floating around, both from within and without. While you can’t do anything about the people around you, we recommend practicing non-judgment within yourself.
This is a mindfulness technique that teaches you how to process the thoughts or emotions that might be flitting back and forth through your mind.
Instead of taking each to heart, whether they’re positive or negative, you observe them, acknowledge them, and let them pass through you without passing judgment on them. It takes some practice, but this is something that you can use in your daily life as well.
3. Seek Support After You Give Birth
You’re not a deer or a giraffe, with a baby that is up and walking within a few minutes of popping out. Having a new little life that is wholly dependent on you is as exhausting as it is magical and as stressful as it is amazing.
Experiencing birth trauma can make it even harder because you’re trying to manage those symptoms while still caring for your new baby.
Thankfully, while your friends and family may be nosy and might not understand what they’re going through, it’s generally socially acceptable for them to offer help when you’re freshly home from the hospital.
Even without asking, you’ll probably have people offering you meals, babysitting, and a veritable pantheon of unsolicited advice. Take advantage of all these offers and let them help you while you work on healing.
4. Head to Therapy
Sometimes, practicing non-judgmental and accepting casseroles from your neighbors isn’t enough to help you cope with the effects of birth trauma.
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Consider seeking out a therapist, especially if you find that your birth trauma prevents you from carrying out your regular tasks. If left untreated, severe birth trauma can develop into full-blown Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or CPTSD, which can be even more challenging to live with or treat.
Seeking out a therapist can give you the tools to cope with your experience before it has the chance to impact your daily life further.
5. Fill in the Blanks
The exact causes of birth trauma are hard to pin down because it’s so subjective and affects everyone differently.
One common denominator is that a lack of information can contribute to fear and panic, especially for women who were rushed into emergency surgery and may not remember everything that happened during the birth of their child.
When you feel ready, take the time to talk to the nurses and doctors who participated in your child’s birth to help you fill in some of the blanks.
It doesn’t always work, but sometimes finding out what happened can give you the closure you need to start healing.
6. See What Options the Hospital Has
Your hospital is aware of birth trauma, and many have started setting up programs to help new moms heal from the trauma of their childbirth experience.
Unfortunately, this isn’t available everywhere, but you may have access to therapists, event debriefing, or other tools before you even leave the hospital in some facilities. Talk to your doctor or nurses to see what options are available to you.
7. Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
Let us repeat that: don’t be too hard on yourself. You’ve experienced a traumatic event. It’s something that will impact your life, and it will take time to recover from.
Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t right as rain in a couple of days, or you need to take a trip to your local therapist to get the tools you need to recover.
This is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t set a deadline. Just take the time you need to get better and recover from a traumatic birth.
As a new mom, you’ve done one of the hardest things in giving birth. Trauma makes that experience even more difficult, but it is possible to recover and move forward.
You just need to be willing to take the first step, whether that step is recognizing the experience or scheduling an appointment with your local therapist.
You are not alone and there are resources out there to help you.