Traumatic childbirth

In birth, the joy of new life is blended with pain and possibly fears over the safety of the mother and the child. Giving birth is therefore something that requires both physical and emotional strength. It is also never known in advance how childbirth will progress or how long it will last. It is therefore not uncommon that childbirth is also a traumatic experience. In addition to childbirth, trauma can be involved in infertility, miscarriages and abortion.

When things fundamental to a person are under threat, the result may be a traumatic experience. This experience often involves feelings of chaos, loss of control, horror and fear as well as helplessness. For a mother giving birth, this may mean, for example, fear of permanent damage or even danger to life to herself or the child.

The following, amongst other things, may lead to a traumatic childbirth experience:

  • extended childbirth
  • strong pain, inefficient pain relief
  • feeling of not being listened to or appreciated by delivery room staff or other support persons, lack of support
  • lack of information, uncertainty
  • unplanned events or operations, such as a sudden C-section or bad tears
  • fear for the safety of oneself or the child
  • physical injuries to oneself or the child
  • death of the child.

Those who have experienced a traumatic event often try to avoid things that remind them of what has happened or try to reject the event in their thoughts. Regardless of this, the event may keep pushing into one's mind as unpleasant images. Those who suffered a trauma may also have nightmares about the event and experience anxiety, fear and depression.

In addition to prenatal clinics, you can talk about difficult childbirth experiences at a crisis counselling clinic, for example. SOS Crisis Centre. Regional crisis centres. Talking about what has happened helps to organise thoughts, which fosters recovery.

Also read more about traumatic crises
Also read more about postnatal depression

A traumatic crisis usually affects the organisation of everyday life and one's coping skills for some time. It is therefore important to seek help if you feel like it. In the long run, recovery from a shocking event may even increase the resources of a person. “I even made it through this!”

Recovery from traumatic childbirth is blended with the need to be able to take care of the baby. The baby has come into the world through shocking moments and the trauma may even be so bad that you don't really know how to be around or how to take care of the baby. This combined with the experience itself may cause a powerful feeling of guilt and inferiority. “Why am I feeling this way?”

The grief related to the experience may feel unacceptable. A mother may feel that she should be happy about this and not have any negative feelings or that she should not be paying attention to her own body. However, love for the child usually develops gradually even after a good childbirth experience. It is natural to think about the changes in your body.

Also the variation in hormone levels affect your mood after childbirth. You should be forgiving to yourself and understand that parenting and childbirth cause many types of feelings. If the childbirth has been a shocking experience, emotions are probably even stronger. Shock and sorrow after a traumatic event are completely justified, and if you want to, you have the right to seek help for recovery.

Minna, 37:

“The birth of my first child ended with an emergency C-section because of sudden asphyxia. The birth just didn't move on and I was already very tired. After the asphyxia was noticed from a foetal scalp blood sample, everything happened quickly. Doctors seemed distressed and at first, I didn't even understand what was going on. When I heard the words emergency C-section, I grabbed my husband's hand and screamed “don't leave me, don't leave me!” When I woke up, I heard that our son was fine and my husband told that the operation was very quick. Also he had been very scared during surgery. Neither of us had thought that the birth might end with a C-section. I was very sore for a couple of days, but then recovered quickly. The midwife talked to me the next day about what I had experienced and made me feel at ease. When our son was two years old, I got pregnant again and then noticed that I still had fears left from the childbirth. The chaotic second stage of labour especially came back to mind. I was afraid that something like that might also happen the next time. My fear made it difficult to focus on expecting the new child and I decided to go to the fear clinic at my hospital. I talked about my fears with a psychologist and felt that I was able to gain control over them. The next childbirth was a lot easier experience than the first one.”