Birth trauma is sometimes known as post natal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is what NSM Katey Fulmer faced after she gave birth to her son…
Birth trauma is the psychological effect on the mother following a traumatic birth. It is a very real condition and, I’m sure, affects many more women than we know about. But some ladies may feel that they can’t say anything about how they are feeling because they “have a beautiful baby”.
Yes, yes, of course we are thrilled and blessed to have our baby in our arms, as some mothers are not so lucky. However, our body and mind has gone through something extremely traumatic and this needs to be acknowledged. The mother needs to be able to talk about what happened to her and how it makes her feel.
She shouldn’t be made to feel guilty for wanting to talk about what happened to her and she should not be told to be grateful that she’s got her baby.
I have my own personal story in regards to birth trauma. My first pregnancy was very exciting and pretty much trouble-free. I went into spontaneous labour two days past my due date and was very excited for labour to start. We were going to meet our firstborn!
I didn’t have a birth plan as such. I just thought I would go into labour, have an epidural and push out a baby. Unfortunately, it did not happen this way.
I did go into labour and I did have an epidural. However, this epidural did not work properly. It kept numbing one side, then swapped sides, then stopped working all together. A second epidural was administered, but the same thing happened again. By this stage I was 10cm dilated, very distressed and my posterior baby was also distressed. His heart rate was not normal and there was meconium in my waters. He was stuck in my birth canal.
The decision was made (11 hours after labour began) to have an emergency caesarean. Once this decision was made everything happened very fast. I was wheeled, screaming in pain, to the operating theatre. The anaesthetist added more drugs to my epidural line and the blue sheet was put up. I felt the sensation of someone cutting into a chicken breast. I asked the doctor if she had started the operation as I thought I could feel it.
Quick as a flash I was put under a general anaesthetic. I didn’t know the gender of my baby. I didn’t see him being born. I didn’t have skin-to-skin contact for more than a day.
I woke up in recovery not pregnant but without my baby. I didn’t know where I was or what had happened to me or where my baby and husband were. A random nurse told me I had had a baby boy, but I didn’t believe him as in my drug-induced state I thought ‘Who are you? You don’t know me? How could you possibly know my baby?’
I was wheeled back to the ward some two hours later and saw my husband holding a baby. My baby. But how could I know he was mine? I didn’t see him come out of me.
Later, I also had trouble with breastfeeding. After two days I couldn’t handle the pain of it, and it was the icing on the horrid cake that was my birth experience. (It wasn’t until after my third birth I found out I have Raynaud’s disease in my nipples which makes it so much more painful to feed).
It wasn’t until around my first son’s first birthday that I realised I was thinking about the birth every single night as if it was a movie stuck on repeat. I had friends with babies the same age who didn’t need to constantly talk about their birth story.
I went to the early childhood health clinic for his 12-month checkup and did the ‘Edinburgh Scale’ test for Postnatal Depression. Following the results, the nurse referred me to a psychologist. I saw her twice and it did help. Another thing that really helped me was to write it all down.
Talking is so very important, whether it’s talking with a friend, your mum, or a professional. If you have a broken arm you go to the doctor to get it fixed right? It’s exactly the same when your mind needs help. It’s not a weakness; it’s an illness and should be treated accordingly.
Unacknowledged birth trauma combined with unsuccessful breastfeeding pushed me into postnatal depression. If I had had someone to talk to who could debrief me on the birth and explain to me that I wasn’t a failure because I couldn’t birth or feed my baby the way nature intended, then maybe it would not have been such a negative experience.
Despite what I went through I never did forget about the beautiful baby I got at the end!
This is a website that beautifully explains birth trauma: The Birth Trauma Association.
Have you or has anyone else you know experienced birth trauma. We’d love you to share your story in the comments section below…
More on pregnancy and birth…