Traumatic is a word often associated with high-drama situations. You may call a Black Friday shopping experience traumatic after somebody tripped you for the last KitchenAid mixer or tell your partner that taking a child to the grocery store after they had missed their nap was totally traumatic. But for some moms, the word takes on a new meaning when they find out what's considered a traumatic birth. It may sound scary or dramatic, but for many families, a traumatic birth is the best way to describe how their child entered the world.
According to Baby Center, a traumatic birth is any birth where you suffered distress. You might have had physical distress, like severe tearing or needing assistance getting your baby out safely. But emotional distress also counts, like being bullied into a birth you didn't want or your baby's life being in danger.
Everyone loves to share the well-meaning advice like "just focus on having a healthy baby" and "all that matters is that you and your baby are OK". While those things are true, a traumatic birth can still be incredibly scarring. According to Midwifery Today, many women who experience a traumatic birth deal with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as flashbacks, nightmares, and insomnia. It's less about how you delivered your baby and more about how the entire experience unfolded. Did your midwife ignore you? Was a doctor condescending or rude to you? Did you fear for your baby's life?
According to the Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth (PATTCh), between 25 and 34 percent of women report that they had a traumatic birth. That's a pretty large percentage of women and it's incredibly heartbreaking. It's a tough experience to deal with not only for the repercussions afterward, like PTSD and other stress symptoms, but also because so many people insist everything is OK as long as you had a healthy baby.
PATTCh noted that while there have been some studies on how many women suffer from PTSD after a traumatic birth, the research varies too much to have a solid number. But the important thing to remember is that if you have had a traumatic birth, you can seek help to recover from it — you don't have to suffer silently. Talk to your healthcare professional about any issues you may be dealing with after your birth and how you can move past it.