TRAUMA THERAPY & GRIEF COUNSELLING
NEUROSCIENCE GROUNDED. INTUITIVELY INFORMED.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
I did not have a romantic idea of my first birth. I did not imagine it to be at my home with classical music playing in the background, candles lighting the room, and scented oils brining the sense of tranquility. That was not my idea. I was going to give birth in the hospital and I believed that I had realistic expectations for my birth. I expected it to be a life changing, beautiful, raw, and powerful experience. Most importantly, I expected to feel safe and protected. Unfortunately and fortunately this was not my experience. I felt silenced, powerless, petrified, and crushed and these feelings did not go away after my baby’s arrival. At some point of my healing journey I was told that one day I will be grateful for this experience. I stared at the person telling me this in disbelief.. How could I be thankful for all this suffering? But with time I did find that through my healing journey I gathered beautiful gifts, one of them is my passion for helping women recover from birth trauma.
I now know that the natural flow of birth may be interrupted in all kinds of ways. If these interruptions are part of your birth story you may find yourself feeling cheated, angry and devastated. It may take some time to come to terms with traumatic delivery, to put the trauma of violent birth behind you, and to connect with people who love and support you, and to connect with your baby and yourself as a mother.
As a therapist, working with women I found out that many women have negative birth experiences. Sadly they are often dismissed, ignored, and are not given the same respect as other trauma survivors. I believe that trauma is in the eye of the beholder. It is painfully clear to me that some women experience events in pregnancy, during childbirth, or immediately after birth that would traumatize any other person. But sometimes, it is not always the sensational or dramatic events that trigger childbirth trauma. Other factors such as loss of control, loss of dignity, the hostile or difficult attitudes of the people around you, feelings of not being heard or the absence of information or informed consent to medical procedures. All this can result in birth trauma
What is Birth Trauma
When I say birth trauma, I really mean Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that occurs after childbirth.
PTSD is normal reactions to abnormal (traumatic or scary) experience. Symptoms of PTSD can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events. Military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or violent personal assaults like rape are often recognized as traumatic events. However, a traumatic experience can be any experience involving real or perceived threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby). So it is obvious that PTSD can be an outcome of an event where you feelt like you had no control over what was happening to you, your body and/or your baby.
Birth Trauma Risk Factors
Risk factors for Birth Trauma include a very complicated mix of objective (e.g. the type of delivery) and subjective (e.g. feelings of loss of control) factors. They include:
• Lengthy labour or short and very painful labour
• Poor pain relief
• Feelings of loss of control
• High levels of medical intervention
• Traumatic or emergency deliveries, e.g. emergency caesarean section
• Impersonal treatment or problems with the staff attitudes
• Not being listened to
• Lack of information or explanation
• Lack of privacy and dignity
• Fear for baby's safety
• Birth of a damaged baby (a disability resulting from birth trauma)
• Baby’s stay in SCBU/NICU
• Poor postnatal care
• Previous trauma (for example, in childhood, with a previous birth or domestic violence)
In addition, many women who do not have PTSD, suffer from some of the symptoms of PTSD after undergoing difficult birth experiences and this can cause them genuine and long-lasting distress. These women are also in need of support. Finally, men who witness their partner’s traumatic childbirth experience may also feel traumatized as a result.
What is different about Post-partum PTSD?
It is, perhaps, difficult to understand how a process as seemingly ‘natural’ as childbirth can be traumatizing but it has been clear for many years that women can suffer extreme psychological distress as a consequence of their childbirth experience for a complex variety of reasons which are frequently related to the nature of delivery. Unfortunately, the difference between the common perception of childbirth and some women’s experience of it means that women who suffer Post Natal PTSD symptoms frequently find themselves very isolated and detached from other mothers. They also find themselves without a voice in a society which fails to understand the psychology of childbirth and which therefore expects mothers to get over their birth experience very quickly.
Consequently, women affected by Postnatal PTSD often find that there is nowhere to turn for support because even other mothers, who have not had traumatizing births, can find it hard to understand how affecting a bad birth can be. 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, despite being told by others to ‘put it behind them’. They may feel incredibly guilty as a result.
This is a terrible burden for women to shoulder and one which profoundly affects their lives. The nature of PTSD means that constant ruminating on the birth experience is beyond the sufferer's control but this is constantly misunderstood, even by health care professionals. Unfortunately, for women suffering from Postnatal PTSD, their detachment from others and the lack of support provided to them can mean that relationships with friends and family may deteriorate. For example, many women end up feeling torn between their desire for more children and their determination to avoid another pregnancy. They may also lose interest in sex and these problems can place a great strain on relationships.
Worryingly, it is suggested that women may also try and avoid medical treatments like smear tests. For many women, their greatest concern is the day to day difficulties they encounter bonding with their baby who may be viewed as a constant reminder of the trauma they have experienced.
My aim as a professional is to tackle this isolation by offering women much needed support and showing them that they are far from alone. By working together and providing women with a voice, I hope that I can help change those practices which contribute to Postnatal PTSD.
How can we work together?
Generally, I use the following modalities when working with trauma:
To begin working together please read my Step-by-Step process for starting to work with me.