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Birth Trauma: Post Natal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Birth Trauma is also known as PTSD and occurs after childbirth. The term refers to normal physical and psychological reactions as a result of a scary or traumatic experience. It can be devastating for a couple and have long-term effects.

Who Suffers From It?

In the UK studies show around 10,000 women each year develop PTSD and up to one-third of women have a traumatic response to childbirth. It can affect any woman although the risk is higher in women who have had a history of abuse or trauma. However, it is avoidable and can be treated if properly diagnosed, according to the UK Birth Trauma Association.

Risk Factors For Post Natal PTSD

The type of delivery a woman has experienced and how it has made her feel influence these. Typical risk factors include: –

  • A long labour or a short, painful one
  • Being induced
  • Lack of pain relief
  • Feeling no control over the birth
  • Lots of medical intervention
  • Having an emergency caesarean
  • Lack of information
  • Lack of privacy in the hospital
  • Worry and fear for the baby’s health

Symptoms of Post Natal PTSD

A woman may experience some or all of the following symptoms. These are all normal responses and indicate that she is trying to make sense of what has happened and needs further advice and support.

  • Feeling fearful, angry or helpless about the birth experience
  • Having bad memories or flashbacks to the birth
  • Feeling anxious and upset when thinking about it
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Not wanting to talk about the experience or over-analysing it
  • Difficulty sleeping, eating or concentrating on tasks
  • Finding it hard to bond with baby

Where To Go For Help and Support

PTSD can make a woman feel very isolated and withdrawn and she may find it hard to talk about with other women, particularly if they had a positive birth experience. Contact the Birth Trauma Association for support and advice. Speak to your GP or health visitor at your 6-week check or later. You can also ask to be referred to a sex therapist. It sounds obvious but talking to your partner about how you feel can also help. He may be feeling guilty for putting you in this situation, especially if he was present at the birth.

Self-Help Techniques

  • Massage can help heal the vaginal area says Emotional Bliss’ sex therapist Julia Cole. ‘Massage the area around the entrance to the vagina, perineum and anus with warmed olive oil. Use the tips of two fingers and do it every night for at least two months. This helps the tissue to stretch naturally and feels good. It will aid blood supply to the tissues and help the healing process.’
  • Take plenty of herbal/salt baths to heal the skin.
  • Do your pelvic floor exercises to regain strength and sensation in the area. Try the Lelo Liv pelvic massager.

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