Whether there are feelings of excitement (e.g. planning a baby shower) or stress (e.g. how will I care for this baby financially while finishing school?) leading up to the birth of a baby, nobody plans or hopes for a traumatic birth experience. We all want and plan for a smooth delivery.
And yet sometimes traumatic births happen unexpectedly. Some feelings of anxiety leading up to birth are normal, the arrival of a child is life-changing after all. But traumatic births can lead to ongoing feelings of anxiety or depression, so it is vital that a mother’s needs are heard.
‘Childbirth trauma’ is a broad term. Here are some examples of what it can look like:
- A mother who experiences a traumatic birth may feel: anxious, fearful, confused and unheard.
- Experiencing these feelings may affect how a woman feels later, e.g. drop in confidence in a later pregnancy, anger, or extreme vigilance toward baby.
- Anxiety around experiencing, coping with and recovering from a traumatic birth may be made more or less difficult depending on past traumas and quality of support.
Factors That Could Increase the Risk of Birth Trauma
What a mother experiences at birth matters. The graphic below highlights four risk factors but there are others. If you have experienced a traumatic birth and it is affecting your mental health, please reach out for help, whether this is to a partner, close friend, healthcare provider or support group.
Childbirth Trauma – 4 factors that may increase risk
1. Limited support from partner/family/healthcare provider.
2. Struggling with prenatal anxiety during pregnancy may lead to higher feelings of stress during birth.
3. Having experienced a pregnancy loss in the past.
4. Feelings of not being in control or listened to during birth/fearing for personal or baby’s safety.
There are many online therapy options available today that can offer support from the convenience of your own home.
Why It’s Important Not to Ignore Childbirth Trauma
Some women are more at risk for depression and anxiety than others: Not every woman who experiences a childbirth trauma will struggle with ongoing depression or anxiety. No matter where an individual is on the scale of risk, everyone’s experience is different, and one isn’t more ‘normal’ than another. But if you have been experiencing anxiety or depression symptoms for 2+ weeks, we recommend talking with your healthcare provider.
Postpartum Depression Bingo*
Top Row, Left to Right: Wanting to sleep more, lacking feelings for baby, feeling angry (more so than usual)
Middle Row, Left to Right: Avoiding pregnancy milestones, feeling irritable (more so than usual), loss of interest in things that used to bring you joy.
Bottom Row, Left to Right: Feeling sad (more so than usual), loss of joy, wanting to sleep less
*We created this postpartum depression BINGO sheet that you can play in your Instagram. Be sure to tag us @dr.dawnkingston and your friends so together we can continue normalizing talking about postpartum depression and raising each other up!
You Are Not Alone
Anxiety is one of the most debilitating and common complications of pregnancy. It affects 1 in every 4 pregnant women, making it one of the most common and debilitating complications of pregnancy. There is no shame in talking about it and asking for the help you need.
Are you pregnant or have recently given birth and in Alberta, Canada?
Regardless of your current emotional state, participation in this web-app study may improve your mental health during your pregnancy and postpartum. Access the web-app by entering ‘hopepregnancyapp.com’ into your internet browser on your computer or phone. At this time, the app is not available on the App Store or Google Play.
For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for the web-app study here.