Birth Trauma Awareness Week: An expert advises a new mum on how to recover from a difficult labour

Birth Trauma Awareness Week: An expert advises a new mum on how to recover from a difficult labour

“I’ve just had my first baby and it was a very traumatic  labour which ended in an emergency cesarean and nearly losing my daughter. She’s fine now, but I keep having flashbacks to the birth and I’m really troubled by it. What can I do to move on and enjoy being a mother?”

Speaking as  Birth Trauma Awareness Week begins, perinatal clinical psychologist Dr Emma Svanberg, co-founder of  Make Birth Better and author of Why Birth Trauma Matters , says: “We’re increasingly aware that many women (around one in three) come out of their birth experience feeling some symptoms of trauma.

“Flashbacks are one such symptom – these might be memories, or they may be less fully formed, such as a sensation.

“Many women also experience some level of ‘trauma’ but may not describe it as such as they don’t meet the criteria for a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Birth trauma is in the eye of the beholder – that is, if you feel you’re more affected by the birth than you expected, you may find it helpful to get some support.

“When we experience traumatic events, they’re stored in a particular way in our memory, and this can leave us feeling we’re not safe even when the event is far behind us. The first step to feeling better is to do lots of things to let your body know you’re safe. Breathing is one quick way of doing this – spending a few minutes making sure your out breath is longer than your in breath is a quickfire way of turning off your fight or flight system.

“Grounding exercises are also helpful – concentrating on feeling your feet on the floor, looking for everything you can see which is blue, counting circles. This helps to ground you in the present.

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Thanks to @jborama123 for sharing her story of recovering from a traumatic birth, up on our blog now. Jen writes “I think things that helped us with bonding were spending time with mothers who were on my wavelength. Who I could be totally honest with. You build your village. Find people who you feel comfortable with. Those who build you up, listen to you and understand you. Take time for some self care. For some “you” time. You cant give from an empty cup. Try and just spend time having some cuddles with your baby or something that makes you feel close to them if you can - maybe a piece of their clothing or a toy. Take photos too if you can so when you look back you can see how far a journey you have had. Just because the birth and breastfeeding didn't go as planned for us it didn't mean nothing was right. Remember that. Speak to someone about your feelings. Don't be frightened to talk. If someone asks you how you are just answer it truthfully. Be honest with professionals - midwives, health visitors, GPs. The older Archie got the more we got back the more I realised that we had been bonded from the moment he was born. Sometimes it’s impossible to see the wood through the trees. And regardless of the birth you have had, the shock of a newborn is indescribable! You are not alone.” For the full story, please go to www.makebirthbetter.org #imhaw19

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“It’s also really helpful to find someone to talk to about what happened to you. You can have a debrief session with your hospital, or speak to your GP about a referral to talking therapies.

“Many people find online support extremely helpful – through the  Birth Trauma Association Facebook page, or the Make Birth Better Instagram account.”

- Press Association

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