It’s the kind of thing you expect soldiers to return from war with. In the olden days, I think people would just say “Oh, you know Uncle Bill~ He’s never been the same since the war...” but now we have a name for it, and no one is really all that surprised when troops return from a combat zone suffering from it.
What we don’t usually expect is for women to return home from the hospital after giving birth suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Stretch marks, sure. But PTSD? What the heck?
This is the time when she’s supposed to feel all glowing and happy and in love with this new little person. Often it is that time, but sadly for many women it isn’t.
Apparently, June is PTSD awareness month, so before it’s over, I wanted to mention the topic since it’s one that unexpectedly affects a number mothers. For the families it touches, it’s a big time bummer deal.
PTSD is not the same as Baby Blues. Those are more of a hormonal let down that can cause weepiness, and mood swings and happen to most women in some degree. In some cases can be a precursor of a full blown depression, but in most cases, they blow over fairly quickly~ usually more quickly and easily when the mother has lots of support in place.
PTSD is it’s own ball of wax~ a reaction to a traumatic experience that involves flashbacks, nightmares, numbing reactions and social distress.
That’s just terribly sad when one of life’s most memorable moments turns into a trauma.
Having worked in the birthing field for nearly 15 years, I’ve seen a lot of births firsthand and heard a countless number of birth stories. I went into the business wanting to help women have magical and empowering experiences, and have been amazed in both good and bad ways since then.
I first heard of birth related PTSD at a conference with Dr. Pec Inman and was blown away at the concept.
These were overall healthy, educated, well to do women with support systems in place and in as in most cases, there was not even an actual medical emergency surrounding the birth. But the women felt frightened, violated and victimized by the treatment from the people and facilities that they trusted and paid to help them during the most vulnerable of times.
On the flip side, I’ve seen first hand situations where there were actual emergencies, and nothing went remotely according to the birth plan, but the professionals handled it in a caring way so that the mother and everyone else present not only understood, but felt confident in what was going on.
Penny Simkin, a majorly wise woman and birth professional, believes it is such a problem that she founded an organization to help prevent and treat traumatic birth experiences. According to her site, traumatic childbirth occurs in 18% of all births, and ⅓ of those women will develop PTSD.
That adds up to a whole lotta women affected by this, and if the mom is affected, so is the baby and the whole family.
Fortunately, there are quite a few resources available~ they even have an app for dealing with it. I’m pretty sure that hugs, food, rest and love would be as helpful as any technology though.
I believe strongly in the power of education and support and am planning to train in Healing Birth Art this fall, with a focus on prevention. I can’t wait to share the tools I learn.
I’ve heard that some ancient nordic traditions would honor new mothers with a parade like ceremony, similar to the one they had for men who returned from war. Perhaps they were onto something?
I know for sure that how we treat people makes such a difference in how they deal with the outcomes. In birth, of course we all want the outcome of healthy moms and babies, but I don’t think it’s too unreasonable that we should also want them to feel okay about the experience and the way they were treated.
No matter how the birth transpires, every woman bringing a baby into the world deserves respect and support.
If you're having a new baby soon, make the effort to surround yourself with people who you feel confident will offer you that respect and support, even if things don't go according to plans. This applies to both the paid professionals and the personal friends and family who are part of your tribe.
If you know any new moms, take them a meal, even a take n bake pizza with paper plates would probably be really appreciated.
Don’t just notice how cute the baby is, but also what an awesome mom she is, and tell her so.
Of course, never ever mention the messy house or milk stains on her shirt. Loving up and caring for the women who are raising our future is something we can all do, and it might just make all the difference in the world.
What do you think can be done to prevent and heal birth trauma?
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Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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