Birth trauma, for many women, is a reality.
And like most things that hurt or are uncomfortable to discuss, the more it is talked about the more information and support can be provided to support women and families through their experiences.
When I started writing this post last week, I was writing because I thought this issue needed as much spotlight as it can get. But then when finishing it today, I discover that it is actually the Birth Trauma Association’s Awareness Week.
The Birth Trauma Association states:
‘In the UK alone, this may result in up to 20,000 women a year developing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
‘As many as 200,000 more women may feel traumatised by childbirth and develop some of the symptoms of PTSD’.
These birth trauma statistics should not be ignored.
Technology has changed quite dramatically over the last hundred years. The World Health Organization states that maternal deaths have fallen drastically over the last 25 years in particular, with 229,000 less deaths than there were in 1990.
And there is no doubt that technology, antenatal care, professional development and greater understanding of our human bodies, has helped achieve these new low numbers.
But although the death rates continue to fall, the picture is still not perfect. Many suffer as a result of maternal interventions, c-sections or assisted deliveries during birth.
NCT England’s breakdowns are as follows (ending March 2014):
The caesarean rate 26.2 per cent (166,081) in 2013-14.
The induction rate is 25.0 per cent. This continues a recent upward trend.
9 per cent. This has reversed the halt in rising instrumental rates seen in 2012-13
With 8 women in an NCT group, this would mean at least 2 of them will have c-sections, 1 will be inducted and it’s likely that at 1 of you will also have an assisted delivery.
I know my own NCT group generally reflected these stats, with more of us having assisted deliveries.
Now of course I’m not suggesting that everyone who experiences one of these methods will as a result have some form of birth trauma – I don’t think there has been any type of research looking into this (but please correct me if I’m wrong – I’d love to know). But there is no doubt that not having a ‘picture perfect’ birth, where you end up with physical, mental and emotional scars that can last a life time, can have a serious impact on your well-being.
‘There is no definition or template for what leaves a woman traumatised by childbirth’.
If you feel traumatised by your experience, then you are suffering from birth trauma. It is real for you. Do not compare your situation to other women’s experiences.
One lady I know suffers horrendous incontinence as a result of giving birth. It is a daily battle for her, both physically and mentally. She takes each day at a time coping with being a mum and trying to hide her ongoing physical side effect.
Now I’m not going to pretend that my birthing experience resulted in anything like this, or that it was at the high end of the scale where I have needed ongoing counselling / support.
But I did feel it was traumatic at points.
When I reflect on what happened over a year later, it still makes me upset. Interestingly though, it’s not related to the physical process of what happened. (I had a forceps delivery and was taken into A&E a week later due to a serious infection).
It is more about the lack of care and support that was provided during this time.
Just to be clear – this isn’t about having a stomping ground to criticise the NHS. In fact the majority of the medical support I received was outstanding and has been throughout my life. But the post-natal care I received was poor and I genuinely believe our maternity services can be improved.
I eventually found support through the tutor of my NCT group. She had experienced, and still does, horrific trauma after the birth of her 3rd child. We both felt there was no-where for women to go locally to talk through their feelings and emotions. We knew there were other woman who were struggling to cope too. Some into their child’s 3rd and 4th birthdays.
So, we set up a small Birth Trauma Group.
The first meet-up consisted of 8 women – we had tea, cake and chatted. Some spoke about their experiences, some didn’t. We all listened and cuddled and gave tissues where needed. It was emotionally draining, but it felt like a tiny step had been taken forwards.
A step to help the women cope a little more, knowing that they weren’t alone.
I don’t need to go into the details of each of the woman’s experiences, because they were told in a closed and trusted environment. But I hope they all felt a little bit lighter, having spoken about their feelings, knowing that they were being listened to.
I personally have come a long way since the first few months after having my daughter. I did report the treatment I received and went to meet the Sister in charge of the ward and community care. It really helped me resolve some of the feelings that had at one point overwhelmed me.
The sister was also able to report steps that had been taken to ensure some of the comments and care of provision I reported would not be repeated. So very reassuring to hear.
If you have experienced birth trauma before, or you think you might be now. Don’t suffer in silence – there are groups and communities that want to help you.
Take the opportunity this week to reach out – the Birth Trauma Association is there for you and so I am.
Do comment below or message me via the site and I will get back to you.
Sending you all love x