Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after birth is becoming more and more common affecting as many as 1 in 3 mothers according to a recent survey carried out by Tel Aviv University.
PTSD is the term for a set of normal reactions to a traumatic, scary or bad experience. It is a disorder that can occur when confronted with an event that involves the threat of death or serious injury to an individual or another person close to them (e.g. their baby) where intense fear or helplessness was experienced. PTSD is therefore usually associated with military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents or serious accidents.
Symptoms include flashbacks to labour, nightmares, insomnia, avoiding any discussion of the event or having physical reactions such as heart palpitations whenever the birth is recalled.
Some women experience events during childbirth that would traumatise any normal person. But for others, it is not always the dramatic events that trigger birth trauma but other factors such as the perceived loss of control and feelings of not being heard or the absence of informed consent to medical procedures. Indeed, Professor Strauss of Tel Aviv University emphasises the importance of physical integrity and dignity during childbirth.
Unable to contemplate going through the horror of childbirth again, as many as 40% of women opt for a cesarean birth second time around though for some, even this option remains too frightening. Many women develop what is known as Secondary Tokophobia, a fear so extreme that they avoid pregnancy and birth despite their wish for more children. This is unfortunately becoming more and more common.
Many women cannot even imagine themselves pregnant again, let alone having to face another labour. Memories of their birth linger on and ultimately prevent them from living the life they’d imagined.
Some realise early on that something is not right and seek help from a professional. However, most women, so caught up in the throws of new motherhood, haven’t even had a chance to process what has happened to them, let alone made time to seek out the help they might need. And so they continue their daily routine on autopilot with the ghost of their traumatic birth hovering around them like a bad smell. Any thoughts of further children are pushed right to the back of their mind as they try to get back to living a ‘normal’ existence, whatever that is.
But what if there was another way? One where we could leave our traumatic births just where they belong, in the past, and be able to move on without bad feeling? What if there was some way to experience these memories without getting so scared by them? Perhaps it could be possible to shift our perception leaving room to see things differently.
It is my passion to help women approach birth without fear or panic and to accompany them on their journey to recovery after a traumatic labour. With this in mind, I offer a series of four sessions to women who feel they are still being affected by their traumatic or upsetting birth experiences.
My aim is not necessarily to go into the content of people’s individual experiences, though of course this can be helpful for some. My goal is rather to explore together the nature of thought and memory by sharing with you an understanding of the 3 universal principles that underpin our life experience, whether we know it or not.
We rarely consider how our moment to moment reality is being created.
This is not about choosing or replacing the thoughts that come into our head, a futile and frustrating task, since it is impossible to control our thoughts. This is rather about changing our relationship to our thinking. Through a small shift, we see a new world.
We do not have to be condemned to a life of bad memories just because of one experience. It’s simply not the way we are wired.
I look forward to exploring this with you so that you can approach life from a fresh, new perspective and be free to make the decision about having more children without being driven by terror or trauma, which is every woman’s right.