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
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.
PPD or PTSD?
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:
- When Your Childbirth Experience Was Not What You Hoped For
- Birth Trauma is More Common Than You Think
- Giving Birth With Confidence.org
- Solace For Mothers.org
- Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology – Qualitative Analysis of the Process, Mediating Variables & Impact of Traumatic Birth
- Post Traumatic Stress Following A Traumatic Birth Experience – an comprehensive article on symptoms and risk factors first published in Chicago Expectant Mothers Guide
- Many helpful articles can be found on at http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/
- Trauma & Birth Stress -PTSD After Childbirth