Are you experiencing trauma related to a birth? If so you are not alone and there is help for you!
Statistics report that as many as 18% of all women experience trauma related to childbirth, one third of whom experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Yet despite its widespread nature, the experience of birth-related trauma can be an isolating one, as mothers are encouraged to focus on their babies and quickly “get over” their birth experience. Trauma can affect a mother - and a partner’s - ability to connect with their baby, carry out normal activities, and impair breastfeeding.
Trauma can happen when instead of being joyful and happy, the experience of giving birth has been frightening. Perhaps the baby’s heart rate dipped, leading to an emergency caesarean section. Maybe you were or your baby suffered injuries as the result of the birth. Or maybe you felt that you weren’t well looked after in labor, or you weren’t told what to expect. If something like this has happened to you, you might have felt scared that you or your baby was going to be injured or die. As with any other traumatic experience – a car accident or a sexual assault a traumatic birth can lead to symptoms of PTSD. This can cause a mother to experience flashbacks, a sense of heightened anxiety, constantly feeling on the alert and avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma. Mothers who experienced trauma during pregnancy and/or birth are also more likely to experience postpartum symptoms as well.
Do you have PTSD related to your birth?
Here are some common characteristic features, according to the Birth Trauma Association:
An experience involving the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby). [Note that it’s the mother’s perception that is important, whether or not others agree.]
A response of intense fear, helplessness or horror to that experience.
The persistent re-experiencing of the event by way of recurrent intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. The individual will usually feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event.
Avoidance of anything that reminds them of the trauma. This can include talking about it, although sometimes women may go through a stage of talking of their traumatic experience a lot so that it obsesses them at times.
Bad memories and the need to avoid any reminders of the trauma, will often result in difficulties with sleeping and concentrating. Sufferers may also feel angry, irritable and be hyper vigilant (feel jumpy or on guard all the time).
What are some common triggers for birth-related PTSD?
Lengthy labor or short and very painful labor
Poor pain relief
Feelings of loss of control
High levels of medical intervention
Traumatic or emergency deliveries, e.g. emergency cesarean section
Impersonal treatment or problems with staff attitudes
Not being listened to
Lack of information or explanation
Lack of privacy and dignity
Fear for baby’s safety
Birth of an injured baby (a disability resulting from birth trauma)
Baby’s stay in NICU
Poor postpartum care
Previous trauma (for example, sexual abuse, domestic violence, trauma with a previous birth)
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy
EMDR therapy is considered by trauma experts, including the U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense and the American Psychological Association, to be a front line treatment for PTSD. EMDR helps people by processing disturbing memories, negative thoughts, feelings and body sensations. EMDR processes distressing memories so that people are no longer triggered when thinking of the incident or triggered by similar incidents. EMDR therapy stimulates the right and left brain by moving your eyes back and forth or holding a handheld device which pulsates. EMDR therapy begins working immediately and can reduce trauma symptoms in as quick as a few sessions.
Kendall Hagensen and Lemecia Lindsey are therapists trained in EMDR therapy and work with women who have experienced birth trauma. Our practices support women from a mind + body approach as we utilize EMDR therapy and somatic (body based) therapy for optimal healing. Kendall and Lemecia bring a compassionate approach to healing with the understanding of the unique needs and experiences that mothers face.
Lemecia Lindsey is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker and a Certified EMDR Therapist and EMDR Consultant. She began her early counseling work in community agencies and schools, helping children and teenagers who were struggling with social, emotional and behavioral issues, and providing family therapy. Her desire to help children and their families with complex emotional issues led her to explore and later be trained in the most advanced therapeutic approaches for treating trauma.
To schedule an EMDR therapy session email or call Lemecia.
Kendall Hagensen (MA, LMHC, R-DMT) is the VWS Clinical Director and a Somatic or Body-Oriented Mental Health Therapist and trained in EMDR, which means that she utilizes our innate mind-body connection as a tool in counseling. She specializes in, and is passionate about, working with adults of all ages living with Chronic Pain and Medical Illnesses. These almost always have a psychological component, whether it be a new diagnosis or chronic condition. Using EMDR, body awareness, breath-work, movement, as well as talk therapy, Kendall works with clients to manage pain and develop a healthy relationship with their illness. Kendall’s practice expertise also includes anxiety and stress management, depression, and career issues.
To schedule a therapy session, email or call Kendall.