Traumatic Birth

Traumatic BirthSometimes women experience symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after giving birth. This can occur under two different circumstances:

1. Women can be traumatized by the birth experience itself if:

  • She underwent an emergency cesarean section or other unexpected interventions;
  • During her labor she feared for her life or the life of her baby;
  • The birth occurred very differently than she expected;
  • She perceives her care by birth attendants as unsupportive, harsh, or abusive.

2. Women can experience PTSD symptoms as a result of the birth experience if she is a survivor of sexual assault or childhood sexual abuse. The pain experienced during labor in the genital area can trigger memories of pain caused in the past by sexual assault. Women survivors can experience:

  • Stalled labor
  • Intolerance of labor pain
  • Dissociation (not feeling connected to your body or your experience)
  • Fear of becoming a mother

Flashbacks (feels as if you are re-experiencing the traumatic event)
Anxiety symptoms
Feeling disconnected emotionally from your baby
Feelings of dread, or fears of something bad happening
Anger and irritability
Attempts to avoid thinking about the birth or conversely, having the need to tell the birth story over and over

Partners, too, can be traumatized by witnessing a difficult birth experience, or if they felt they didn’t do enough to “protect” the mother during labor.

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing) is an effective treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and is a short-term therapy for discrete incidents of trauma. If you were traumatized by your birth experience as a result of a past sexual assault, then both the birth experience and the sexual assault would need to be treated with EMDR and treatment may take longer.

See for more information about this treatment or call me with your questions.


Dealing With Flashbacks