Birth Stories ‘Post-Natal PTSD and Birth Trauma’

“PTSD nightmares aren’t always exact replays of the event. Sometimes they replay the emotions you felt during the event, such as fear, helplessness, and sadness”.
Alice Cariv

Post- Natal and Ante-Natal depression affects 1 out of every ten women, according to the NHS, affecting partners and fathers also.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a diagnosis you get when you are having problems with people, blowing up at them, not having feelings for your children, and when you feel numb with others and get very angry and triggered easily. It’s having difficulty feeling alive in the present.

What is birth trauma? According to the birth trauma association in the UK, it is when birth has been traumatic for several reasons:

  • Perhaps you were left in pain for hours
  • You needed an emergency Caesarean section
  • Your baby’s heart rate dropped
  • You need a forceps delivery
  • You had severe tearing
  • Postpartum haemorrhage
  • Your baby was ill and had to spend time in intensive care
  • Your baby was dehydrated
  • You couldn’t breastfeed

Maybe you were left alone, and the hospital staff did not attend to you, listen to you or take the time to understand exactly what you were saying at a very important, highly sensitive time.

The birth trauma association say

“Afterwards, even if your baby is well, those feelings don’t go away. The research shows that about 4-5% of women who give birth develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares and extreme anxiety that make daily life immediately challenging”

Thousands of women are walking around with a story about what it was like conceiving/being pregnant / giving birth and the fourth trimester. Becoming a mum is a huge marker for a woman, and when there has been trauma around this, her whole life and sense of self can shatter into tiny pieces.
Shame and Blame
Post-natal PTSD, as an example, is something many women have experienced, and time and time again, I witness how these women have become silent around this experience. It is not until they begin to talk about it that they realise just how traumatising it has been, and they can begin to heal.

Women have been left alone to care for themselves and their babies without support, which has been to internalise this blame themselves for not being stronger after days of labour, compounded by agonising anxiety for their babies’ wellbeing. In all of these experiences, women repeatedly tell me that they have no confidence in themselves/ they lack the energy to see the point in their lives because their experiences have told them that or the meaning they have made from their experiences is that they have done wrong.

Having a difficult and long labour where you have to have emergency treatment is extremely traumatic, and many women have:

• focused on their new-born baby as a way to overcome their distress
• Gone back to work as soon as possible
• Gone into a trauma depression

No matter your experience within your bodies, you will still be holding these traumas, and these will be showing up as:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks to the birth
  • Distress in your body
  • A sense of disconnection
  • Hypervigilant
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty functioning day to day

You might be feeling anxious and find yourself keeping busy, avoiding certain situations and people that remind you of the time you gave birth and experienced what you did. You may be experiencing numbness in your emotions and physical body and find yourself unable to speak with care and gentleness to others. Whether or not you have a diagnosis of PTSD, talking to a professional can help.



I know what I’m talking about because I am a mum with my stories of birth trauma. I understand that you may feel like you have failed your baby and your partner, but this is simply not true. You have a specific type of PTSD which is postnatal PTSD. Birth is such a sensitive time, whereas, as a mother, your natural mother-bear instincts are on alert for danger and want to keep any danger away so that you can protect your baby. This hyper-alert state can elevate your blood pressure, make you jumpy in your skin, and be very alert to anything in the environment that is not gentle, kind and safe.
Talking about your experience in a safe and gentle environment where you can process the trauma can enable you to heal and move on in your life.