For those that have never given birth or have only had positive birthing experiences, it can be difficult to understand how or why a person would reflect on their birth experience as though something terrible has happened when they and their baby are physically healthy.
Birth trauma is very real and has a lasting impact on the entire family, even on communities.
The Birth Trauma Myth: Birth trauma isn’t always the result of some catastrophic event, the need for surgical intervention, or a physical assault on the parent during labour. Often, birth trauma is the result of subtleties within the birth environment.
A negative birth experience can result in a general feeling of sadness, grief and loss. If your birth experience was traumatic may feel alone, like you are “less of a woman”, or that you have been violated. In more extreme cases, birth trauma may result in PTSD and/or postpartum depression. You may feel like you cannot talk to anyone about your negative feeling because you should be grateful to have a healthy baby or because you don’t think it is acceptable to feel negative about your baby’s birth.
Following a traumatic birth you may feel detached from your infant. You may struggle with breastfeeding, compounding your sense of disappointment. Postpartum depression can make it nearly impossible to resume your normal day to day activities. Having a birth experience that you interpret as traumatic or negative may lead you to no longer desire more children. You might avoid intimate contact with your partner to avoid the risk of pregnancy, because of physical discomfort due to physical trauma or because it is a reminder of the violation you felt during the birth of your child.
Research on traumatic birth experiences is limited. We know that you are more likely to view your birth experience negatively if:
- you feel you were not in control of your experience
- people present at your birth acted hostile or uncaring
- you felt a loss of dignity
- you were denied informed consent in regards to your care
Giving birth has the power to shape and define you. Birth can leave you feeling weak and defeated or strong and accomplished.
There are numerous resources in the Calgary area for people who would like assistance with processing their labour and birth experience. Please reach out to your doctor or doula if you need assistance with referrals or contact information.