Childbirth is not an easy thing to do. It’s painful, it’s long and it’s so uncomfortable. The bright side is at the end of the long struggle is q beautiful little baby that Mom will love and cherish for the rest of her life. Every childbirth is different, even to the same mom. Some can have a relatively normal, straightforward and quick delivery while others can have it worse. Some moms have such traumatic childbirths that it stops them from having more children.
When I say traumatic, I don’t just mean they had a hard time and simply don’t want to do it again. I mean women who are left with true psychological trauma that leaves them struggling to live their day to day life. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not just something that effects men and women coming home from active duty. This is the way it is often portrayed. But, anyone can find themselves the victim of PTSD, even women who have gone through childbirth.
Symptoms of PTSD are; disturbing thoughts or feelings, dreams related to the event, mental or physical distress to trauma-related cues, attempts to avoid trauma-related cues, alterations in how a person thinks and feels, and an increase in the fight-or-flight response. All of these things sound awful on their own, but add a new, tired mom to the mix and it’s a recipe for disaster.
There are many reasons why women can’t get over the trauma of childbirth, and it is linked to reasons why trauma occurs in the first place. Here are 15 of them.
Childbirth hurts. There I said it. Let’s get that out in the open. But, it has to hurt, there has to be pain. The pain of contractions is actually a good sign. It means that your cervix is opening to allow the baby to pass through the birth canal. If someone asked me to explain the pain of contractions I don’t think I could. When the contractions first started I would describe them as very intense period pains mixed with cramps associated with having to go #2.
Women sometimes find they can’t get over the pain of childbirth simply because it hurts just that much. They measured the amount of pain a person can physically stand, and the amount of pain brought on in childbirth was off that scale. It was comparable to someone breaking 20 bones at once. There is definitely pain management in the form of medication, but sometimes even the medication can fail cause mom to feel every contraction and tear. Or childbirth may come so fast and furious that there is no time to administer any medication. All these can lead to horrible flashbacks and feelings of pain. If a woman experiences normal period cramps, it could trigger the trauma as the pain is similar.
13 Modesty – Out The Window!
I considered myself a very modest person, I think most people do. Modesty went out the window when I was giving birth. I will get real candid here with everyone, there was a point in my labour where I was on all floors throwing up into a toilet when the nurse walked in, I should add that I was also butt-naked and she walked up behind me. Yup, this is when I lost all sense of modesty.
Women can sometimes be traumatized by the loss of their dignity. It equates to a feeling of being extremely exposed and vulnerable. No one wants to feel vulnerable and it can lead to a fight-or-flight response in women to never let themselves be placed in that situation again. This can also lead to poor self image or self esteem issues. If a woman is not happy with her body before labour, she will not be particularly pleased to be fully exposed during childbirth. Also, the part of the women’s body that is exposed the most is the one area she wants to protect at all times, and it can be extremely traumatizing for a women to expose this area. Especially if the doctor delivering her baby is a male.
12 It Never Ends!
Labour also lasts a while. Not always, but sometimes. If you are a first time mother, the active phase of labour could last up to 8 hours, sometimes longer. Once your cervix is dilated, it can take another hour or two to push the little one out. This will always be a rough number, some women have their baby in 3 hours, some in 48 hours. The longer the delivery the more traumatizing it can be for the mother.
Think about it like this, if you get a papercut, it hurts but it doesn’t last long. You forget about it and it’s over. When you are in labour the pain is consistent until you either have the baby or you receive medical treatment for pain. This can lead to fear of giving birth in the future. Fear of going through all of that pain for that long all over again. It may bring some comfort to know that the more childbirths you have the shorter they usually are.
11 Medical Intervention
We all make a birth plan. Whether we know it or not. We either write it down and make it official or its just something in our head that we think about. When things don’t go as planned for our deliveries, it can make traumatic events even more so. We all know anything can happen in the delivery room, but sometimes things we never even thought about could happen. Does the doctor have to use forceps or a vacuum to assist the baby out? These are often things that happen last minute and the mom will be left feeling completely powerless.
This loss of control can be traumatizing for women. We all need to feel in control of situations in order to feel safe. When we feel like we are not in control, we don’t feel safe. This may lead women to avoid being in these situations ever again, therefore they have no desire to go through childbirth again.
10 Tear It Up
Tearing is something that is very common during childbirth. It’s official name is a perineal tear. A perineal tear is an unintended laceration of the skin and other soft tissue structures which, in women, separate the vagina from the anus. These tears vary in their severity, with some being just minor tears to ones much more severe. Instead of tearing, an episiotomy may be done. This is where the doctor makes a small incision to help move delivery along.
Small tears and cuts are usually not a big deal, but if you are a woman who experienced a more severe tear it is very easy to see how it can be a traumatizing event. Most minor tears can be fixed with 2 or 3 stitches. I have heard stories of women who tore so much they required about 200 stitches. In the case of a tear, it is not only the immediate pain of the tear that can be traumatizing, but it is quite painful to recover from.
9 Need For C-section
This is almost a sub-category for when your birth does not go as planned. A lot of women would much prefer to have a vaginal birth, but sometimes that is not an option. While it is usually needed due to medical reasons, it doesn’t make it any easier for women when they are told they need a C-section. A C-section is a major surgery when you get down to it. And who wouldn’t fear surgery? That can be fearful for mothers in labour.
They also fear the recovery period. They fear the pain and difficulties they will soon face. While V-BAC’s are becoming common, it can halt a woman from getting pregnant again as they know going in that they might just be right back to this point again. They can also feel immense amounts of guilt that they were unable to birth the baby as nature dictates a woman should. This can result in delayed bonding with their baby as well.
C-section or vaginal, recovery is no joke. Going into my labour I knew there was recovery involved in a C-section, but I feel no one warned me about the recovery with a vaginal birth. I tore, so my stitches hurt, my lady parts hurt (duh) but I also wasn’t anticipating other pains. My back and neck were sore for a few weeks from straining to push, and every bump in the car made me feel I was sitting on a spike. I know a lot of women who have it worse than I did though.
Some women’s recovery involves dangerous amounts of bleeding, bed rest, or chronic pain. What makes this all seem worse is that not only are you in pain, but you have to be on you’re A-game to take care of your little baby. You do all this while being exhausted too. This can itself cause enough trauma that women can’t imaging going through the pain all over again.
7 Baby Born With Complications
We love our babies no matter what. We also really want our baby to come out with 10 little fingers and 10 little toes. We love our babies no matter what happens, but it can be a heartbreaking moment when a mom realizes that something is wrong with her baby. Babies and children with a disability can be very hard to care for. It can be quite taxing on parents.
If you add this with an exhausted mom who is recovering from birth can be an awful combination. Mom will be tired and may feel like giving up at times. This can also lead to immense feelings of guilt as she thinks that she may have been the cause of this disability in some way. Not only the trauma of the childbirth can cause her to not want to enter it again, but it is a very demanding situation that can make it hard.
6 Premature Birth
A premature birth is a birth that happens before the 37th week of pregnancy. Of course, the closer baby is to their due date the better but some little ones decide to come into the world sooner than they should. This can be traumatic for a women for many reasons. She first endures a state of panic when either her water breaks or contractions start much sooner than they should. She then endures medical intervention to try and stop labour from progressing. If labour is not stopped that she has the constant worry about her little preemie who will more than likely have a stay in the hospitals NICU.
A woman may think that this is her fault, that she caused the early birth of her baby. A woman may also be traumatized from the amount of worry she has for her little baby and all the motional ups and downs that come with having a premature baby. This can all make her hesitant to get pregnant again out of fear.
5 Don’t Sneeze
Childbirth does a number on ones body. If a woman is not traumatized by birth, her body probably is. Whether vaginal or C-section, it takes a while for a woman’s body to get back to normal. It seems after birth that a woman’s body can turn on her (I have been fooled by a couple sneezes). Incontinence is quite common after childbirth as the muscles are not as strong anymore.
A woman can also develop hemorrhoids after birth, which I don’t think I have to explain. I got them after my baby was born and they were almost as painful as childbirth. The woman can also get a rather serious infection. Sometimes these issues never fully go away and a woman is left living with them for the rest of their life. Issues such as incontinence and hemorrhoids can be quite embarrassing for women. It can lead to self-esteem issues. Women may fear having another baby because they think these issues may get worse.
4 Almost Dying
Childbirth gets serious real fast when the mom’s or baby’s life is on the line. While it doesn’t happen nearly as often as it used too, women and babies do sometimes die during childbirth. Even more women have close calls. Almost losing ones life is the reason a lot of people suffer with PTSD. Death is one of the biggest fear people suffer from. When a woman almost looses her life through something that is considered common and safe it can be even worse.
If you or anyone comes close to dying you will most likely avoid all situations inn which that could happen again. Therefore, women are not to keen on going through childbirth again. What can also trigger those with PTSD is hearing any high pitched sounds that remind her of the beeping hospital machines.
3 Bad Bedside Manner
Doctors, Midwives and Nurses should know a lot more than medical stuff. They have to learn the art of having great bedside manners. They must learn how to talk to patients, especially those that are in pain or are upset. If a woman does not get a great medical team it can ruin the whole birthing experience for her.
One woman describes how bad bedside manner ruined childbirth for her: “I was adamant about wanting a midwife, and then when I found out that I was having twins, my midwife told me I’d have to switch to shared care with an OB-GYN at 30 weeks. My midwife was great initially, very encouraging, and kept reminding me that plenty of mothers go full-term with twins, so I was pretty optimistic. But I didn’t end up being one of those women, and needed an emergency cervix stitch at 21 weeks to give me a shot in hell at carrying at least to viability. The day we found this out, my husband and I were sitting in L&D, trying not freak out, and figured we’d just wait to hear from my midwife before we assumed the worst. Then she called and said, ‘Alana, this is very bad. Your babies might die. I can no longer be in charge of your care, so the OB-GYN at the hospital when you are admitted will take over from here’ I ended up with this random OB-GYN who was really a private fertility specialist, and he gave me some steroid shots and told me to go home and ‘not do anything stupid.’ He was awful and I hated him.”
2 Feeling Powerless
Feeling powerless can be a scary thing. You lay there on your back and are just at the mercy of the medical team. You don’t really know what you are doing, and you have to trust the expertise of the professionals (made harder if they are anything like the doctors in the previous post). Women don’t like to feel powerless, we don’t want to feel like weak little girls, but some do.
When women go through childbirth they feel like what they say doesn’t matter. While they may get a say in some things regarding birth, when it comes to medical decisions they don’t they are at the hands of the doctor and nurses. This is sometimes enough to make any woman think twice before putting themselves in that position again. It is similar to the fear of being out of control and your fight or flight instinct kicks in and leaves you wanting to flee, when you really cant.
1 Birthed Alone
I think there must be some women out there who would like to birth completely alone. I don’t know anyone personally who would want that, but I am sure they are out there. I could never have done that. I was so happy to have my support team there to help me and offer helpful encouragement and companionship. Women don’t only just need the cheerleaders; they need someone to just be there so they aren’t alone.
There are tragic circumstances out there that do force women to deliver alone. Women who simply do not have anyone to be there, or women who give birth so fast that no one has time to make it to be at her side. Add all the other aspects of childbirth plus doing it all completely alone can turn this beautiful experience into a traumatizing nightmare. Just think about it, when you want to give up there is no one there to say you can do this!
Sources: wikipedia.com, babycenter.co.uk