Horror stories. That is what I heard during my first pregnancy. Men and women with children told stories of extremely long labors, unexpectedly painful labors, potentially life-threatening emergencies, unwanted medical interventions or poor treatment by medical staff. I asked a fellow therapist why so many women felt compelled to speak to me about their traumas. She replied, “because we have no language for these traumas in our culture. We are expected to be happy and move on, so long as we have a healthy baby.”
What is Birth Trauma?
As many as 25-34% of women describe their experience of childbirth as traumatic. Some of these women go on to develop post-traumatic stress or postpartum depression. Male partners can also experience post-traumatic stress after attending a birth. People may believe that they should be “over” their experience now that they have their baby, but find that they still cannot stop thinking about what happened. They may mourn the loss of a planned for birth experience -- one they did not get. Parents may feel numb and disconnected from others, including their baby. They may be flooded with strong feelings of fear or sadness. They may feel unexplained moments of anger and rage. Sleep problems, an inability to enjoy oneself, images that flash into the mind unexpectedly, or feeling jumpy are also common reactions to trauma.
Help is Available
Thankfully, more people now speak up about their traumatic experiences and more and more help is available. Groups such as improvingbirth.org and the Birth Trauma Association now provide education, assistance and advocacy for those with birth trauma. I have been privileged to help women heal through birth trauma with the use of EMDR therapy. One of my passions as a therapist is to counteract silent suffering of those who suffered birth trauma by providing a supportive environment for people to process their birth experiences.
EMDR is a highly effective trauma therapy originally developed by Francine Shapiro in the 1980's. Over 20 controlled studies have found that EMDR is an effective therapy for reducing symptoms of post-traumatic stress. I often find that people feel a good deal of relief after their first EMDR processing session. For some, a few sessions may be enough to resolve birth trauma.
EMDR will not erase traumatic memories. What it does, in my experience, is help people gain a different perspective on their experience. They feel that the traumatic experience has truly moved into the past; they no longer relive it. Once EMDR processing is complete, people feel empowered to move forward.
If you believe you are suffering from Psychological Birth Trauma, I urge you to consider EMDR therapy.
Nancy Sherrod psychologist, provides counseling and therapy services for individuals, couples and families in and around Denver, CO. Areas of specialization include: Depression, Grief, Pregnancy, Trauma, Anxiety, and Pregnancy Loss.
Proudly Serving: Denver, The Highlands, Cherry Creek, Sunny Side, Lower Downtown, Wheatridge, Lakewood, Arvada, and their surrounding areas.