The word traumatic gets tossed around a lot as a punch line. Just this past summer I said, "the heat is traumatic," more than one time for emphasis. But the truth is, some things really are traumatic and shouldn't be treated as a joke. For instance, there are a number of women who have real trauma associated with giving birth that causes ongoing symptoms for them after their baby is born. But what is a traumatic birth syndrome, exactly? Because this term has different meanings depending on if you're talking about a mother or her baby.
The term "traumatic birth" covers most things that fall outside the realm of what is considered a normal birth (meaning nothing goes wrong during delivery). For babies, this term is used to describe "cuts, fractures, or other injuries sustained by a newborn baby during labor or delivery," according to the website for the Birth Injury Guide. These injuries usually occur when babies have a hard time passing through the birth canal, and most commonly affect the head, neck, and shoulders. Although a few of the more serious injuries may cause permanent damage, most of the issues are temporary and resolve completely on their own.
But for moms, a traumatic birth is something entirely different. In this case, it is when mother experience post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms following the birth of her child. According to the website for Postpartum Support International, "most often, this illness is caused by a real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum." This syndrome can have many causes, but as What To Expect's website pointed out, common reasons for postpartum PTSD include:
- severe tear
- premature baby
- emergency C-section
- baby in NICU
- cord prolapse
- breastfeeding problems
- previous trauma
A new mother who is struggling to deal with a traumatic birth, can experience feelings of fear, helplessness, or horror; have flashbacks and hallucinations; and difficulty sleeping and concentrating, according to Today's Parent. Managing this condition is not an easy one for any mother, especially one that has just given birth. As the Birth Trauma Association pointed out, "the nature of PTSD means that constant ruminating on the birth experience is beyond the sufferer's control but this is constantly misunderstood, even by health care professionals."
If you or a mother you know is experiencing PTSD from their childbirth experience, Baby Center suggested talking with a counselor or using a debriefing service that has a specialty in dealing with moms who've gone through a traumatic birth. There are experts who can help start the process of recovery as well as the support of other mothers who have been through this as well. You don't have to suffer alone, with the help of professionals, and the support of those who love you, the power to make it through this condition is possible.