As many as 1 in 3 Australian women believe they had a traumatic childbirth experience.
The effects of birth trauma can be incredibly damaging both mentally and physically. The effects can often last for years and don’t always present immediately.
Many women don’t get the support they need to heal from a traumatic birth experience. However, luckily there are things you can do. And one of the more interesting techniques that can help is hypnotherapy. Here’s what you need to know about traumatic childbirth, it’s impacts and how to move towards healing.
What is traumatic childbirth?
Giving birth is a life-changing experience for most women, emotionally and physically. It’s also a very individual and personal experience. Some describe it as beautiful. Yet sadly a whopping one in three women also consider their childbirth as traumatic.
According to the Australasian Birth Trauma Association, birth trauma can be the result of either physical or psychological damage. With the latter, often it’s due to things like the birth not going the way the mum wanted, complications during delivery, inadequate pain relief, a feeling of no control and being at the wrong location. It can also be a result of a pre-term delivery, emergency c-section, their birth partner not present during the delivery, survival concerns for them or their baby, and not feeling supported enough by medical staff or their partner/family.
The problems traumatic childbirth can cause
A lot of mums feel that because childbirth is experienced by so many other women, that they should just ‘get over’ their ‘trauma.’ However, if left untreated traumatic childbirth can cause very serious long-term problems. These include:
- Physical health issues – such as incontinence, pain during sex or prolapsed uterus.
- Mental health issues – postnatal depression, anxiety, stress and other mental health conditions.
- Baby & parenting issues – such as trouble bonding with your baby, not wanting to breastfeed and a fear of having any more children.
- Relationship issues – with your partner, family or friends.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from traumatic childbirth
It’s possible for women to experience postnatal PTSD – intense trauma and fear after giving birth. Men can develop it just from witnessing a traumatic childbirth too. According to COPE (Centre of Perinatal Excellence), signs you might have PTSD as a result of having a baby include:
- Reliving the birth – through unwanted and recurring memories, including vivid images and/or nightmares. This may cause you to experience intense emotional or physical reactions, such as sweating, heart palpitations or panic when reminded of or discussing the birth or events.
- Being overly alert or wound up – can lead you to experience sleeping difficulties, irritability and lack of concentration, becoming easily startled and constantly on the lookout for signs of danger.
- Avoiding reminders of the event – can make you want to deliberately avoid activities, places, people, thoughts or feelings associated with the birth or aftercare event because it brings back painful memories.
- Feeling emotionally numb – you may find yourself losing interest in day-to-day activities, feeling cut off and detached from friends and family, or feeling emotionally flat and numb.
Hypnotherapy as a healing tool after traumatic childbirth
So, what can you do to aid your healing after a traumatic childbirth experience? Well one effective technique for healing from traumatic childbirth that you might not be aware of is hypnotherapy. We spoke to an expert for the details.
“Using both hypnotherapy and a Neuro-Linguistic Programming process called timeline therapy, the subconscious mind can be instructed to return safely to memories of the birthing experience,” says Skye Flowstreym, from Northern Beaches Hypnosis Clinic.
“When the memories surface, there is an opportunity to re-frame the memory. Then when you see the experience in a different light, healing can occur on the release of any suppressed emotions.”
Why you might try hypnotherapy after traumatic childbirth
According to Skye, hypnotherapy is very safe and effective where you are conscious and aware the whole time. Either in person or via Skype, the therapist simply guides you into a deep state of relaxation so you can recollect your birthing experience. But this time you’re a calm spectator.
Here are just some of the ways hypnotherapy can help with healing from childbirth trauma:
- It gives you the time and space to unblock suppressed emotions surrounding the birth.
- It allows you to express anything you may have repressed about the experience.
- You can forgive yourself, and others (if necessary).
- It releases tension in your body you may have been carrying around since the birth.
- You have the opportunity to “re-birth” your baby in your heart and mind, through a guided visualisation.
- You gain fresh perspectives and insights about the birth, helping you to feel calm and peaceful about the experience going forward.
Other tools for healing after traumatic childbirth
If you are suffering from a traumatic childbirth experience and aren’t sure if hypnotherapy is for you there are other tools to try. Here are a few other tips that can aid your healing:
- Seek practical and emotional support from family and friends.
- Give yourself time and don’t judge or blame yourself.
- Speak to the hospital and staff for more details on what happened during the delivery to give you clarity. Write them a letter or make a formal complaint if you feel it’s warranted.
- Be kind to yourself and rediscover a love for your body.
- Talk to a professional or other women with traumatic birth experiences, through places like Australasian Birth Trauma Organisation, COPE or PANDA.
For more info on labour, read our article here on 5 things nobody tells you about birth. For more details on hypnotherapy for healing from a traumatic childbirth, visit Northern Beaches Hypnosis Clinic.