What is Birth Trauma?

When we talk of birth trauma, what we are actually referring to is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that occurs after childbirth. PTSD is a wide ranging term for a set of normal reactions to a traumatic or scary experience. It’s widely understood that following a traumatic life event such as a nasty shock or violent crime, individuals can suffer from PTSD. However a traumatic experience can be any experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (for example their baby) so it is now understood and recognised that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can be a consequence of a traumatic birth.

It is important to remember that PTSD is a normal response to a traumatic experience. It is the mind's way of trying to make sense of an extremely scary and personal experience and is not a sign individual 'weakness' or inability to cope.

Birth Trauma Therapy is a free service offered by the Health and Wellbeing Academy. No referal needed - if you are ready to seek help please get in touch.

Find out more...

Who can be affected?

The experience of birth trauma is unique to the individual woman and perception of her birth experience. It is not always related to a physically traumatic birth such as an emergency caesarean section. Around 6% of women are diagnosed with traumatic stress after childbirth. However, it is believed that many more women have symptoms that go undiagnosed as they may feel too frightened to speak openly about their fears with anyone.

There are many possible causes of PTSD following childbirth, they are very personal to the induvial but can include stillbirth, a fear of maternal death, inadequate care during labour, lack of pain relief, feelings of humiliation or feeling of violation during labour. It can affect any woman during any birth, and not everyone who suffers the same or similar birth experience will go on to suffer from PTSD.  

Can Birth Partners suffer from Birth Trauma?

Partners are very likely to have been present at the birth and witnessed the distress and pain of their wife or partner. The feeling of helplessness for the one you love can be extremely upsetting and the experience is likely to have also been very traumatic for that person also.

Birth partners too can be affected by Birth Trauma/ PTSD, the experience is unique to the individual and birth partners can suffer from PTSD as a witness to the experience and can require psychological intervention even when the woman who experienced the birth has been able to process it without the need for support. Birth partners can also benefit from Birth Trauma Resolution

What about midwives and other healthcare professionals?

It is well known that health care professionals such as midwives and doctors can be adversely affected by their experiences caring for women and babies, especially when the outcomes are unexpected such as stillbirth. They too can develop symptoms of PTSD that may include fear of going to work or caring for women in labour again.  

What are the symptoms of Birth Trauma/ PTSD following childbirth?

Symptoms can vary from feelings of intense fear, helplessness, recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. The individual may feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event. Some women become hyper-vigilant; they are so afraid of something happening to their baby they cannot sleep or leave the baby alone with anyone else. Sufferers tend to actively avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma, this may include talking about it, although some women may go through a stage of discussing their traumatic experience so often it almost becomes obsessive.

Over time these feelings may gradually diminish but some women will continue to feel constantly ‘on–edge’. The thought of going the experience again means that they will avoid ever becoming pregnant again or, when they do, the symptoms of PTSD resurface. 

How to access the service

What is the treatment offered?

Our Birth Resolution Practitioners, who are also registered midwives, offer the ‘Rewind’ technique which can achieve outstanding results with birth trauma in a relatively short space of time.  The ‘Rewind’ is a fast, effective, safe method of neutralising strong emotions that are attached to the birth trauma memory. By neutralising the emotions, the brain can process the memory effectively and store it as a memory, relegated to the past, where it should be. During the session the client is in a state of deep relaxation and the therapy involves accessing the reprogramming part of the brain. During this time other beneficial techniques, such as rehearsing a future birth experience can also be explored. With single traumas, clients are usually symptom-free within 1- 2 sessions.

Who provides the treatment?

Our two practitioners have been midwives for many years and have worked in a variety of maternity settings from home to hospital. They both now work in midwifery education at Swansea University and are both certified birth trauma resolution practitioners. Women affected by Postnatal PTSD often find that there is nowhere to turn for support. Even other mothers can find it hard to understand how a difficult or traumatic birth experience can affect someone long term. This can make sufferers lonely and depressed as they often feel they are somehow ‘weaker’ than other women because they are unable to forget their birth experience. This is a terrible burden for women to shoulder and one which profoundly affects their lives. This is why it is so important to access the support of a specialist in Birth Trauma therapy.

Where is it offered?

The therapy is offered in a safe and relaxing environment within the Health & Wellbeing Academy, at Swansea University. 

Frequently asked questions

How much does it cost?

Currently the service is offered free of charge.

Do I need to be referred by anyone?

No. You can refer yourself when you feel ready to seek help.

For more info please contact: s.moore@swan.ac.uk / s.e.norris@swansea.ac.uk

Bookings may be made through the Health & Well Being Academy: 01792 518600

Further information can be found via: http://birthtraumaresolution.com/