Traumatic Childbirth

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After Traumatic Childbirth

Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth is more common than you think. It is triggered by a real or perceived trauma during delivery and can effect up to 6% of mothers. The traumatic experiences usually leave a women feeling that either her life or the life of her baby is at risk during the labor or shortly thereafter.

Symptoms of Postpartum PTSD

Symptoms of postpartum PTSD might include:

  • Intrusive re-experiencing of a past traumatic event (which in this case may have been the childbirth itself),
  • Flashbacks or nightmares
  • Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event
  • Persistent increased arousal (irritability, difficulty sleeping, hyper-vigilance, exaggerated startle response)
  • Anxiety and panic attacks
  • Feeling a sense detachment

Risk Factors

Women who have experienced a previous trauma, such as rape or sexual abuse or any other trauma that their life was at risk, are also at a higher risk for experiencing postpartum PTSD. If a woman plans to get pregnant again, it is important to spend time processing what happened in the last labor before the birth of the next child.


Many women who experience PTSD after childbirth are told that they have postpartum depression (PPD) and although women can experience both PTSD and PPD at the same time, they don’t always go hand in hand. A proper diagnosis by a therapist who has experience working with both trauma and postpartum mood disorders is important for treatment to be effective.

More on Traumatic Childbirth

If you want to read more about traumatic childbirth, these are wonderful resources: