How to recover from a traumatic birth

Giving birth doesn't always go to plan, as blogger Becky tells us. Here, we look at ways to recover from a traumatic birth...

For many people, giving birth can be a relatively straight-forward event, and the recovery process fairly short. But for some, the process of giving birth can leave them feeling traumatised. Things like a very long labour, an emergency delivery, a feeling of lack of control or not being listened to, can all contribute to a feeling of trauma and in some cases PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and it's something which can take a long time to recover from.

Mum of two and TalkMum blogger Becky says: "Twenty months ago I gave birth to Chloe. It was extremely traumatic and I can't say I am fully over it. It's amazing the effect an experience like that can have on your life.

"I have felt lately that I am beginning to process it all in my mind and begun to deal with it but this week a family me ever gave birth and every single feeling came flooding back.

"When I heard that she was in labour I felt panicked the entire time, worried she would have a bad experience or that something terrible would happen to her or the baby. After her labour listening to her talk about it brought back awful memories.

"Holding her baby whilst wonderful was a touch too emotional as I remembered those first few months with Chloe. I adored her so much and luckily we bonded immediately but it was a dark time as well as a wondrous one.

"It has made me think about whether I will ever be fully healed. Do these thoughts ever go completely? Will I feel this way every time someone in my life has a baby? An everyday aspect of life, something that happens every minute of every day to someone in the world. A life changing moment for any woman, good or bad. My child was alright, I was alright. But I'm not."

So what can you do, if like Becky you suffered a traumatic birth?

Speak to your partner about how you feel. It's important that they know how you have been affected by the birth and what they can do to support you. Your partner might benefit from speaking to someone about this too.

Make an appointment with your GP or speak to your midwife or health visitor. They might be able to recommend local support groups you can attend.

Contact the Birth Trauma Association and speak to one of their trained counsellors.

Look after yourself. Allow yourself time to heal and don't put pressure on yourself to 'cope'. Eat healthily and try to get exercise and fresh air. Maintain a level blood sugar, avoiding simple carbohydrates like sugar and refined white flour which are easily digested and metabolised rapidly, giving an almost immediate energy high, followed later by a significant energy slump. Avoid also caffeine, which is found in tea, coffee, chocolate and some fizzy drinks; also avoid smoking, alcohol and added salt.

Speak to the hospital. It can be helpful to go through your hospital records relating to their birth experience with a doctor or midwife. Alternatively, many hospitals offer a birth debriefing service, sometimes called a birth reflections or birth afterthoughts service. Contact your maternity unit or ask your health visitor or midwife what's available local to you.

You might be referred for psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). A few hospitals in the UK offer psychotherapy as a part of their Obstetric service so it is worth checking whether your hospital has this and whether you would be eligible.

Now read: Trusting your instincts as a new mum and Breastfeeding tips from the TalkMum bloggers.

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Alexandra Phillips

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