Birth is unpredictable, many things are out of our control. Sometimes however much planning you've done things happen during your labour and birth which are scary or upsetting or disappointing.
You may find that when you express these feelings people react by telling you not to worry about it because you have a healthy baby and that's what matters. Of course healthy babies are important but you are important too and it's okay to need support to process your feelings and memories. In fact it might even be vital to your mental health to have that support.
We really want you to know that you can recover from traumatic birth experiences and to help you access the way that feels best for you to do that. This blog doesn't have all the answers but it has some links and ideas and we're always happy to chat through your individual experiences and help you find what you're looking for.
Need support to recover from a traumatic birth?
Sometimes birth experiences are so difficult that people can develop post-traumatic stress. This can sometimes be miss diagnosed as (as well as often happening alongside) postnatal depression. Often people don’t seek help for it even though the symptoms such as panic attacks and flashbacks can be really overwhelming. But just as with postnatal depression it’s time we change the stigma that prevents people from seeking help.
If your birth felt traumatic to you for any reason reach out and talk about it. Talk to your midwife if you’re still seeing her or to your health visitor or GP. Alternatively refer yourself to your local support service such as italk in much of Hampshire, Talking change in Portsmouth and Steps2wellbeing in Southampton. Another place you can find information and support is through the birth trauma association. There’s also an ever-growing list of resources on the make birth better website.
Also available locally is our team member Sinead who is a counsellor and Kirsteen who is a birth trauma specialist offering a specific Birth Trauma Resolution Therapy
There are lots of options for support and treatment explore your options and pick the one that works for you and please don’t be reluctant to try something else if the first thing you try isn’t helpful.
What can I do if I just feel a bit sad or disappointed?
Some people find it helpful to book a debrief with a midwife at their local hospital who can go through their notes and help them understand what happened and why. This can also be an opportunity to talk through anything that was specifically unhelpful that health professionals did or said during their labour so that lessons can be learned to help people in future have better birthing experiences at the hospital.
Other professionals such as doulas, counsellors and independent midwives will be able to provide a birth story listening service where you can talk through your experiences with a sympathetic and understanding person.
You might find it helpful to complete a birth story writing exercise either with professional support or with a sympathetic friend. The idea of this is not to just write it out although that in itself can be cathartic but to write it and then re-frame it in a way that helps you appreciate how brilliant you are. More information on doing this can be found here.
Another practical exercise that a lot of people find really helpful when their birth hasn't gone as they hoped or expected it to is to get back skin to skin with baby. We know about how important skin to skin can be after birth but the benefits don't stop when the first few hours are over. Skin to skin raises oxytocin for everyone and helps with bonding and recovery. Taking a bath with your baby is one way to do this. More details on how to do this practically can be found here.