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How To Navigate Birth Trauma: Birth Trauma Awareness Week

Many new mothers face unexpected challenges during childbirth or pregnancy. Understanding and acknowledging birth trauma is crucial for healing and recovery.
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By Marilea Moore

The team here at Evoke would like to highlight this past week as it was Birth Trauma Awareness Week. It is recognized from July 16th to July 22nd and is an opportunity to provide emotional support, genuine validation, and education for those who have had a traumatic family growing experience or know someone who has. 

Whatever your experience, we want you to know that you can find resources and support throughout your pregnancy.

Handling Trauma

Birth trauma can be challenging to talk about because it may bring up unwanted and unpleasant feelings and emotions during a time our culture highlights almost exclusively as a happy and joyous occasion. Experiencing previous birth, pregnancy, or postpartum complications can bring up a feeling of fear when thinking of having another baby or deciding to complete another cycle of fertility treatments. 

As you may know, traumatic experiences can occur outside of the birthing period, including infertility or pregnancy loss, such as:

  • a high-risk pregnancy
  • pain or infection after birth
  • potential adverse physical impacts of pregnancy (e.g., hyperemesis gravidarum and postpartum hemorrhage)
  • developing preeclampsia, eclampsia, or HELLP
  • lengthy labor or short and very painful labor
  • induction
  • poor pain relief
  • feelings of loss of control
  • high levels of medical intervention
  • emergency cesarean section
  • not being listened to
  • fear for the baby’s safety
  • poor postnatal care
  • previous trauma (such as childhood trauma, trauma with an earlier birth, domestic violence, etc.)

If you have experienced any of these, you are not alone! This can also include the complexities of breastfeeding, meeting a newborn’s unexpected needs, having a premature or sick baby in NICU, or family circumstances that can exacerbate or create negative experiences after the birthing period. Each individual’s family growing situation is unique and should be considered when addressing the needs of the parent, couple, or family. 

Signs to Look For

Some of the signs and symptoms to look out for that may indicate that you or someone you know is experiencing birth trauma are:

  • Experiencing unwanted, distressing, and vivid thoughts or memories related to the childbirth experience 
  • Visions that can cause distress and anxiety (intrusive thoughts)
  • Feeling as though the person is reliving the event (flashbacks)
  • Feeling disconnected or detached from thoughts, feelings, or surroundings (dissociation)
  • Experiencing nightmares
  • Feeling constantly alert, irritable, low, or unhappy
  • Worrying that something terrible is going to happen to their baby outside of what would be considered “typical or normal,” new parent worry
  • Blaming yourself for a traumatic birth
  • Having difficulty remembering parts of labor and delivery

A licensed mental health provider can significantly support and help improve your relationship with your birth experience.

Effective Strategies for Coping

These strategies and methods have all been proven to be effective in the treatment of birth trauma:

  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Somatic Experiencing
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Group Therapy 

Other beneficial practices include mindfulness, yoga, breathing exercises, grounding techniques, body scans, and emotion or reflective journaling. Focusing on improving the mind-body connection will alleviate physical and emotional symptoms.

Remember, your journey is unique, but you should never feel alone. Our therapists at Evoke would be honored to walk with you wherever you are in the family growing journey and fully understand the sensitivity required.

Click (here) for information about our family growing support group.

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