top of page

What is Birth Trauma Matters

A quick google search for the phrase 'birth trauma' will garner results about postnatal depression or physical trauma resulting from a birth injury. We often miss or dismiss the very real experiences of trauma many women face following the arrival of their baby as 'the baby blues'. This is not what we are addressing here today.

Birth is generally seen as a joyous occasion where the new addition to the family is cooed over, welcomed and celebrated but, beneath the smiles and congratulations often covers a hidden truth; of new mothers struggling to reconcile their feelings of grief over their experience or treatment of birth, with the feelings of guilt they have over not being elated with their new bundle of joy.


Then what is birth trauma?

In order to understand what birth trauma is, we first need to know what trauma is, then explore it in the context of the birth experience. Experiencing an emotionally traumatic event is generally about the interpretation and meaning given to the event rather than what has actually occurred. It calls into play an individual's capacity to safely experience and process the event without overwhelming the nervous system.

According to "Birth trauma is a shorthand phrase for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after childbirth. We also use it for women who have some symptoms of PTSD, but not enough for a full diagnosis".


Who does it affect?

Around 200,000 women per year, which equates to 30% of women in the UK experience their births as traumatic in some form. Birth trauma can affect anyone and It isn't limited to the actual birth either. Women who suffer from HG (Hyperemesis gravidarum), stillbirth, complications in pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding are all under the umbrella of perinatal trauma. It is still widely referred to as having suffered birth trauma by many. Birth trauma affects more than the birthing unit alone. It has wider implications that affect the professionals supporting the family unit, through vicarious trauma, also known as secondary traumatic stress.

Studies such as the MBRRACE-UK report have highlighted the stark and alarming disparities facing women of black and other ethnic backgrounds during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. The study found that Black women are up to 4 times more likely to die in the perinatal period than their white counterparts, women from Asian ethnic backgrounds face a twofold risk, and women living in the most deprived areas of the UK are almost three times more likely to die than those in the most affluent areas.

We can only assume that this would also mean that women from black and other ethic backgrounds are facing traumatic experiences at a disproportionate level too.


Symptoms of birth trauma

Symptoms vary and can be very individual. Some common themes that many women suffer with include: re-experiencing through flashbacks, avoidance of the setting the event took place in or avoiding anything connected with the experience, feeling a heightened sense of danger or threat, jumpiness or irritability, intrusions and negative feelings. These symptoms can be so debilitating for a mum at a time where she is in most need of support as the demands of motherhood are huge.


Recovery and healing

Admitting that something isn’t right can be incredibly difficult for many women. It sometimes lands on the shoulders of a partner, close friend or parent to notice something isn’t right beyond the baby blues or too many sleepless nights in order for help and healing to begin. An appointment with your GP is usually the start line for the process or assessment and recovery to take place. It’s very important to have a thorough assessment as soon as possible before embarking on radical self-help methods, this is true especially for severe cases where a woman’s ability to function normally is severely inhibited. There is light at the end of the tunnel for many women although at the time it may feel like the cloud of darkness will last forever. There are many methods that can be used successfully to treat or lessen the symptoms.

If you suspect you or someone you know have been affected by birth trauma, please reach out to your GP, Midwife or health visitor. You can also find more information and resources from below.


Helpful resources


You can find Anisah on Instagram and via her website.

22 views0 comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page