The Traumatic Aftereffects of Difficult Childbirth Experiences Misunderstood by Doctors

Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD

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Many women have difficulty giving birth and have been traumatized by this sometimes life-threatening experience. Trauma after a troubling birth experience can have a devastating impact on the post partum or post natal period. Birth trauma can be caused by multiple factors and is usually accompanied with: blame, shame or guilt. Trauma after childbirth leaves the same sense of post traumatic stress that can occur in any other unhealed traumatic situation. The aftereffects of Post Traumatic Response (PTR) are both emotional and physical ailments, trouble bonding with the child, failing marriages and a fear of having more children.

Women often say, “I’m not sure if my case is severe enough. " But then they say they’re still having recurring nightmares nine years after the birth of their child. . . or that they’ve never bonded to their child. Some women who think they haven’t had any of the symptoms are the ones who are the most severely traumatized.

The symptoms of PTR include classic post traumatic stress disorder symptoms such as hyper-vigilance, nightmares, anxiety, depression and heightened startle response. Also, there’s usually disturbance in the *** relationship with the partner. Sometimes it’s due to a physical condition—fourth degree peritoneal tears, a fractured pelvis, etc. Part of the problem is that these women are often misdiagnosed as having postpartum depression. They have anxiety, depression, and they’re very fearful-That’s usually all a doctor asks and that’s all the women say.

But the symptomatology won’t match PTR unless the professional asks the right questions. Questions specifically relating to PTR are:

  • Is there an increase in your startle response?

  • Has your sense of safety been impaired/shattered?

  • Are you avoiding people or places related to childbirth?

  • Do the smells associated with childbirth catapult you back to the delivery room? When a woman can’t bear to go past the hospital or go to that doctor, or won’t talk about the delivery, is a strong indication that she is suffering with PTR to childbirth.

  • Have you experienced flashbacks, irritability, panic attacks, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, avoidance, anger, mood swings, numbed emotions, difficulty sleeping, disconnected from self, baby and partner, unexplained sadness, indifference and a sense that something isn't ‘right. '

    Like Post Traumatic Stress, Post Traumatic Response to childbirth needs professional attention specifically focused on healing the trauma. The Association for Pre- & Perinatal Psychology and Health - P. O. Box 1398, Forestville, CA 95436 Maureen Wolfe, C. N. M. , Executive Director Telephone/Fax: 707-887-2838 can provide referrals and information.

    Dorothy M. Neddermeyer, PhD specializes in: Mind, Body, Spirit healing, Post Traumatic Healing and Physical/Sexual Abuse Recovery. As an inspirational leader, Dr. Neddermeyer empowers people to view life's challenges as an opportunity for Personal/Professional Growth and Spiritual Awakening.

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