How to Heal After a Traumatic Birth

How to Heal After a Traumatic Birth
Photo by Matilda Wormwood from Pexels

Birth trauma is much more common than you might think. In fact, up to 1 in 3 women is estimated to have experienced birth trauma. Many women feel that their experience couldn't be classified as such, especially if no one was hurt and a healthy baby came of it. Some may even feel guilty that the idea that they might be suffering from birth trauma has crossed their mind when others have had much worse experiences. Guilt is one of the main symptoms of birth trauma, also known as postnatal PTSD. Even if the birth of your child was the textbook example of the perfect labor and delivery, you might be suffering from it. If you are experiencing anxiety, panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, guilt, or depression, you are likely suffering from birth trauma. Know that you are not alone. There are resources available and steps you can take to get on the path to healing. 

Don't Blame Yourself

First off, try not to be overly critical of yourself. It is easy to internalize what went wrong, but it's not your fault. No matter what happened, there is nothing that you could have done differently. It is a natural reaction to blame yourself, but try to limit negative self-talk. Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to another new mother.      

See Your Doctor

If you are struggling with postpartum PTSD, you mustn't try to treat yourself. Your doctor will likely prescribe you anti anxiety or antidepressant medication and talk therapy if you suffer from anxiety or depression. Two forms of talk therapy are cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, commonly referred to as emdr therapy. Talk therapy is the best treatment for traumatic birth.

Practice Self-Care 

It is difficult to make time for yourself with a newborn, especially if you suffer pangs of guilt every time you leave your new baby, but your baby needs you to be well so you can be a better, more present mother. It also sets a good example; you want your child to grow up to be a happy and well-adjusted adult. They will be much more likely to build the habits to facilitate that if they see them modeled from an early age. Exercising daily is one of the best things you can do for your mental and physical health. It is an excellent way to relieve stress and increase endorphins for a sunnier disposition. Even a gentle walk in nature or some light yoga can work wonders on the spirit. In addition, be sure that you are eating plenty of nutritious whole foods, especially if you are nursing. Getting naps in when you can is essential with a newborn. Don't worry about the mess; it will wait. Sleep when your baby sleeps.

Reach Out

Reach out to friends and family. Tell them how you are feeling and ask for help if you are struggling.  They can help prepare meals or watch the baby so that you can exercise or squeeze in a nap. It is also therapeutic to let it out. Trying to keep your symptoms to yourself will only manifest in greater agony. If you are too embarrassed to talk about it in your own inner circle and can't get to a therapist immediately, support groups are available online, and even a few in-person ones cropping up in some regions.  

Remember that you did nothing to deserve this. You are a survivor of trauma. You wouldn't blame another victim of trauma, so don't blame yourself. Seek help by any and all means. Healing is possible.