3 Immediate ways to support a person who has recently experienced a traumatic birth

anxiety college depression emotional wellbeing perinatal pna pnd post natal prenatal recovery therapy trauma traumatic birth Jun 05, 2020

As a pre & post natal specialist who hold groups for mums and babies you become used to reading the signs of a mum who has had a rough time with her birth. My heart aches for the women who tear up when others talk about their positive birth, or have to leave the room completely. The women who struggle to put their baby down without fretting. The tense and nervous mums who are always very on edge.

The repercussions of a traumatic birth can be profound for mums, dads and babies. It can be a surprise to everyone how long after the event that symptoms of high arousal, re-experiencing and avoidance can still can still torment parents. It can really be confusing, frightening even, for someone who is suffering with anxiety, hyper vigilance and sleeplessness to understand what is a normal new parent experience and what is a symptom of trauma.

It’s during baby massage classes, or mother & baby yoga classes that often women open up about their birth experience and reveal their pain, their grief and the upset that remains.

Mother and baby sessions offer a welcome haven for women and babies who have experienced a difficult birth. The power of yoga and massage alone to re-pattern the brain’s nervous system and bring healing is well documented. Both of these practices naturally activate a person’s relaxation state, bringing relief to the hyper aroused flight or fight system that can remain activated after a difficult or traumatic experience.

Here are 3 ways that you can extend the healing powers of your existing pre & postnatal practice to enhance the relief that they can feel attending one of your classes:

  1. Acknowledge and validate that what they are experiencing could be because they had a tough birth by saying something like ‘I am not surprised you feel the way you do given what you have been though, that sounds really tough’. The symptoms of a traumatic birth are a normal response to an extraordinarily stressful event and so you can reassure them that it is normal to feel that way after a difficult, traumatic birth. This knowledge is extremely comforting to someone who is confused and maybe even frightened by what they are experiencing.
  2. Encourage self care during this time. This can be tricky as mums and dads feel that they should be focusing their care and attention on their baby leaving them no time or space to acknowledge their own recovery. However if you can position self care as an investment that will give them the strength and energy to look after their baby then it can seem more appealing. Self care is anything that allows them to rest and recover mentally and physically and so this could mean drafting in doulas, or maternity nurses or friends and relatives to help look after their baby whilst they rest. Urge parents to ask for the help that they need, this is essential as a defence again deeper mental health problems like PND.
  3. Reassure them that the symptoms that can remain after a traumatic birth often clear up and disappear on their own after 8 weeks as they naturally heal from what can be compared to a mental injury. It is important to say that whilst the symptoms are a normal response to the terrible thing that happened the symptoms that remain don’t have to be accepted. Be sure to tell them that if they don’t feel better after 8 weeks then there are effective treatments available, such as Rewind or EMDR, that lift can the symptoms of a traumatic birth. Often just knowing that there is help out there is a very soothing thought to those suffering.

If you regularly work with parents who have suffered the effects of a traumatic birth or perinatal experience and would like to know how to support parents towards their won goals for recovery, then take a look at our course TBR 3 Step Rewind. Over 600 doulas, midwives, antenatal teachers and counsellors have taken this courses since 2016 and I would love to welcome you too. Email me at [email protected] if you have any questions before you enrol.