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Birth Trauma

Someone may try to tell you that a negative birth experience won't affect you after it's over. The sad fact is that you can have such a horrible birth experience that it leads to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or birth trauma. Signs that you may be experiencing birth trauma include depression, difficulty sleeping, nightmares, and anxiety that last longer than a month.

E Fact

Certain experiences make you more susceptible to PPD, postpartum psychosis, or birth trauma. For example, if you have an emergency cesarean, you are six times more likely to experience depression after giving birth.

E Alert

If you have previously been sexually abused, the loss-of-control issue may be more dominant. Birth is a time when residual issues of sexual abuse tend to arise. Be sure to discuss this not only with your practitioner, but also with your counselor and husband. They must be prepared to help you through any trauma that results from your birth.

Prevention of Birth Trauma

The best way to deal with birth trauma is to prevent it. One way to do this is to develop a trust-based relationship with your doctor or midwife. Discuss what you'd like to have happen for your birth with this person during your prenatal visits. Perhaps you have very strong ideas about certain subjects such as medications used in labor. It may be that you are concerned about pain in labor. These are all examples of important things that need to be communicated to your doctor or midwife.

Building that trust between you and your practitioner will help you communicate during labor. One main key to satisfaction in birth and avoidance of birth trauma is the feeling that you are in control of the situation. This is possible even in labor. That relationship with your practitioner means that with only rare exceptions, everything is presented fairly to you and you are given an opportunity to make the decision that is best for you and your baby. The lack of this decision-making ability is what causes birth trauma.

Loss of control is a hot topic when it comes to birth trauma. This is partially because loss of control is defined so differently from woman to woman. What you consider a loss of control in birth may contribute to another woman's ideal birth. The key is identifying the deciding factors for you.

Healing from a Traumatic Birth

If you have suffered a traumatic birth, you will need to heal from the experience. If you do not heal, you will have a tendency to suffer depression, restlessness, fear of birth, and other symptoms. The healing process will take some time, and you must be patient.

Healing can usually be accomplished with a combination of counseling and time. You will want to address the issues of birth trauma before you decide to have another baby. If you don't, the feelings will rise up again during your next pregnancy and make you feel frightened about repeating your experience.

From The Everything Mother's First Year Book Copyright © 2005, F+W Publications, Inc. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Publications Company. All rights reserved.

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