Birth trauma: The tip of the iceberg?

anxiety college depression emotional wellbeing perinatal pna pnd post natal prenatal recovery therapy trauma traumatic birth Jul 12, 2020

I am very thankful that there is more awareness of birth trauma now than what there was even 5 years ago. The internet, social media and the contribution of blogger’s real life experiences of birth trauma have really helped many women to recognise what they were experiencing. They can begin the process of understanding that experience, which is vital for recovery.


What is much less discussed, but certainly as prevalent, are other forms of perinatal trauma such as; lengthy and intrusive IVF journeys, miscarriages, unplanned pregnancies, difficult breastfeeding experiences, and sleep deprivation. There is much more silence culturally around these experiences because of course conception and breastfeeding are always naturally occurring, all pregnancies are healthy and wanted and sleep deprivation, well what did you expect?


Because of the taboo around these fairly common difficult events people are silent about their suffering. This silence is very isolating and can lead to more serious problems that impact on other parts of their parenting journey, not to mention the impact to their sense of self.


It’s only when we understand more clearly what trauma symptoms are and how they are distinct from other emotional health issues such as depression or addiction for example, then we can begin to recognise the lasting effect that adverse events can have on our lives. 


I would love for this knowledge about our mental health, the cause and effect of trauma, to be as common as knowledge about our physical health is (think 5 a day for example). Once we understand the basic biology behind traumatic events, combined with the experiential influence of the perinatal life stage then it is much easier to support parents towards better emotional health and resilience. The halo effect of this on the emotional health of future generations would be huge. 


But it all begins with knowledge and understanding of what happens to us all when we experience difficult, life threatening (perceived or real) or frightening events. 


Currently most of us don’t know what we don’t know and this is a problem for maternity HCP, birth professionals in private practice and pre & post natal specialists because birth trauma conservatively affects 30% of all parents*. This modest number doesn’t take into consideration fertility trauma, miscarriage trauma, perinatal trauma, post natal trauma, or breastfeeding trauma which still remain taboo, but none the less have a devastating impact on those experiencing those event.


Most birth professionals don’t know how to listen for the signs of trauma symptoms because they don’t know what trauma symptoms are and how they translate into a day to day experience for parents. They don’t know how to listen sensitively in a way creates space for the person to heard without interruption, judgement or comment. They don’t know how to use conversation to safeguard against re-traumatising and begin the process of feeling better about what happened.


These are all relatively easy skills to learn and the bonus is that birth professionals already understand the nuances of the perinatal life stage in a way that many trained therapists do not. They have a great advantage point to support those who they are already working with.


I cannot describe the unbelievable feeling that occurs when you journey with a person from a place of distress, fear and survival in parenthood to peace, calm and thriving. So instead I will share some comments from TBR 3 Step Practitioners who have experienced this feeling on witnessing that transformation with the parents that they have worked with:


Louise Nunn – Perinatal Mental Health Midwife


‘I’ve had some lovely feedback from the mums, which is fantastic – and I’m so relieved! I’m so excited about being a practitioner as I’m really going to be able to enhance the care and support I can offer to women and help them have a positive pregnancy and birth this time round.’


Kal Black, Breastfeeding Counsellor


‘The mother had the most powerful experience yesterday. She hadn’t expected the technique to be so powerful. 


When we finished she turned into a different woman. In the year I have been supporting her as a BFC I have never seen such strong empowered body language displayed by her.’


Steph Grainger, Doula and Hypnotherapist and Owner of The Nest

‘So you may remember last week working with my client. I’ve just done session three with her and she’s doing amazingly well.

SUDS scale – Guilt went from 10 – 2 and Fear of death – 7 – 1

She looks so light and free!. She spent time with a pregnant friend recently and amazed herself at how she could revisit her birth and be ok with it.

Just wonderful to see such a transformation.’


Lucy Shutes: Doula, Hypnobirth Teacher, Breastfeeding Supporter

‘It has, and continues to take me by surprise by the simple, yet dramatic effect it can have on these client(s). I have seen these clients go on to have great empowering births, or make a break-through with breastfeeding issues by embracing this technique.’


Mandy Bellenger – Independent Midwife


Feeling awesome! Alex, TBR 3 Step Rewind is amazing! First feedback session with a client and we are at a 2/10!

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