Childbirth Trauma

Pregnancy sets up many expectations. Its an time of expecting that’s full of hopes and dreams for the baby: what kind of childhood and life is in store, how can the parent support her on her path to a bright future?

As part of the plan, some new mothers anticipate a relatively, calm, natural and fulfilling labor. Childbirth is the gateway to Motherhood. It is common for moms to use the birthing experience as a base for their sense of motherhood and it can shape their relationship with the baby.

Birth Trauma puts a serious wrinkle in those expectations, to say the least. It’s a very real issue and very common. 1 in 4 first time mothers sustain significant injuries. And only about 25 percent of women have a non-traumatic normal vaginal delivery that has not done serious damage to their pelvic floor or their anal sphincter.[1]

Trauma can be the result from labor and childbirth and can also be a consequence of how the mother is left feeling about these experiences. She might have experienced pain or physical distress while giving birth. Or her labor or childbirth may have required medical intervention (actions taken by the attending medical professionals if the health of mother or baby is considered to be at risk) that she wasn’t prepared for. [2]

It is common for women to describe their labor as ‘normal’, even if they are left with confusing, on-going symptoms such as anxiety – including for the health of the baby – or low mood. A mother’s fear for the well-being of her baby or herself following interventions or a life threatening situation can be very traumatic. These fears and anxieties can interrupt the mother’s ability to be available to and bond with her baby. [2]

some of the factors that make birth trauma more likely are:

  • Lengthy labor or short and very painful labor
  • Induction
  • Poor pain relief
  • Feelings of loss of control
  • High levels of medical intervention
  • Forceps births
  • Emergency Cesarean section
  • Impersonal treatment or problems with staff attitudes
  • Not being listened to
  • Lack of information or explanation
  • Lack of privacy and dignity
  • Fear for baby’s safety
  • Stillbirth
  • Birth of a baby with a disability resulting from a traumatic birth
  • Baby’s stay in the special care baby unit or neonatal intensive care unit
  • Poor postnatal care
  • Previous trauma (for example, in childhood, with a previous birth or domestic violence)[3]

There are four main symptoms of Birth Trauma- PTSD:

  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories. These make her feel distressed and panicky.
  • Avoiding anything that reminds her of the trauma. This can mean refusing to walk past the hospital where she gave birth, or avoiding meeting other women with new babies.
  • Feeling hyper-vigilant: this means that mom are constantly alert, irritable and jumpy. She worries that something terrible is going to happen to her baby.
  • Feeling low and unhappy (“negative cognition” in the medical jargon). She may feel guilty and blame herself for the traumatic birthing. She may have difficulty remembering parts of the birth experience.[3]

Not everyone who has had a traumatic experience suffers from PTSD, but many do. It’s a completely normal response, and not a sign of weakness. It’s also involuntary: brain scans show a difference between the brains of people with PTSD and those without. PTSD is not something that can be cured by “pulling yourself together” or “focusing on the positive,” despite what other people tell you. [3]

This mis-understanding of what is going on with the new mom is isolating, leading to loneliness, feeling weak and depression. To be clear Birth Trauma PTSD is not the same as Postnatal Depression (PND), although they can overlap.

What can a Mother do?

Emotional Resolution, or EmRes, can be key to helping mothers with Birth Trauma PTSD to release the emotions that were trapped before, during and after their birthing experience. It works with PND as well.

Using both EmRes one-on-one sessions and learning EmRes-Self to use on their own, the traumatized mother can turn the corner on the emotions that are fogging their maternal time and lead to better self-care for herself and more wholesome relationship with her new family member.

Book EmRes one-on-one sessions

EmRes-Self class description and schedule

References
1. Birth trauma impacts go beyond women
2. Childbirth trauma
3. What is birth trauma?

Emotional Merry-go-rounds and other spirals

Its that situation again. That person or group is present. This conversation or action will trigger my feelings. I’ll spiral into my “go-to” emotions. and I’ll be back in my misery, again. It takes to much energy and time to climb out of that wheel. Time to get off the scary-go-round!

PTSD, depression, substance abuse and other disorders are commonly associated with emotional dysregulation.
Its the inability to manage the intensity and duration of negative emotions such as fear, sadness, or anger. When caught off-guard by some triggering event, clients are plunged into overwhelming emotions and behaviors that may be difficult to recover from.

Traditionally emotional regulation skills are based on cognitive and behavioral interventions, using conscious thought and behavior to regulate emotions.

But what if we can address the emotions directly? Resolving them, in the moment they are occurring? ..and just get rid of them permanently?

Think about it. If you have a nose bleed, you wouldn’t just let the blood run down your face, onto your shirt. No. You would stop what you are doing and take care of it with a tissue, tip your head back, maybe add a cold compress. You and everyone around you will understand that your body needs some attention. It is a necessary and immediate need.

It’s the same way with emotions. If you are experiencing an emotion or feeling, that is anywhere from uncomfortable to overwhelming, it is time to stop and take a moment to deal with that emotion…. just like its a nose-bleed.

How do we loosen emotion’s grip and get control back? How do we stand in our emotion, face it head on, in the moment of crisis and “conquer it”?

We must all learn to resolve and balance our unwanted emotions on the fly, and we can do it quite simply.

Emotional Resolution on and for the Self (EmRes-Self)

  • IN THE MOMENT, while you are still in the emotion, Close your eyes. turn your focus away from the outside source of your disturbance and look in.
  • Scan your body and notice at least two physical sensations, like throat tight, hands sweaty, hard to breathe, stomach tight, etc.
  • Allow the sensations to change, without control or expectation. Don’t do anything, just watch.
  • Be present with the physical sensations until they are gone, for up to 2 minutes
  • When you are calm, open your eyes. the emotion will be gone.

It sounds ridiculously simple. How can something this unpretentious work?

Well, if you don’t embellish the routine, it works fabulously. Here are a couple guidelines to curb your desire to “make it better”.

  1. This process works with the current emotional difficulty your body is experiencing. If you are angry at your co-worker now, then you must resolve now while you are still angry at him, not after you’ve cooled down and are recalling your anger. The timing can be tricky in this regard. But immediately excusing yourself to a restroom and resolve there, will usually keep you in the emotion enough to resolve. Excusing yourself to tend a fake “important text” on you phone, also allows you to covertly bow your head to your phone and close your eyes for a few seconds–its surprising how socially normal this is.
  2. Emotions are experienced by the body as physical sensations. It is the body that has the embedded/trapped emotions that keep coming up via triggers, flooding your mind and overwhelming thought and reason. When you close your eyes, you are shifting from the mental brain/memory to emotional brain/memory.
    The body has an innate ability to metabolize the emotional memories, the physical sensations, if you give it the time and space to do so.
    And that is just it–You must give your body time to do it’s work!
    Remember: Power goes where you focus.
    You can not be in your mind and your body at the same time. If you gently focus on your body, it will resolve the physical sensations and release the emotional imprint. If you let your focus return to the mind, recalling the situation, trying to make sense of the physical sensations, focusing too hard on the sensations, trying to control or change the shape, form or intensity of the sensations, then the body stops its “resolve the emotion work”. Just watch the physical sensations and allow them to change. The sensations can be uncomfortable, but even “breathing into it” is a form of control that will derail the whole process.
  3. Allow the physical sensations to change, grow, move, pop up in another location as you passively watch, until all physical sensations are gone and you are calm… for up to 2 minutes. Many times it can take only 8-20 seconds! After 2 minutes, which feels like a long time, open your eyes and recall the emotional situation that disturbed you. We are not changing history here. You will still remember being mad, for instance, but you will most likely not feel mad about it any more. If you do feel a little emotion is left, then close your eyes again, go thru the resolve again. It will be completely gone after the second time through.

It really works. It works for me. It works for everyone that has learned it. And it will work for you.

In one of my advance Emotional Resolution classes, I met a woman who was in New York on 9/11, a hotline operator, who watched the buildings fall from close range. She had PTSD for years as a result. She shared that most of her healing was finally accomplished by using the ER-Self protocol, when she was triggered, in the instant that she was in the emotion. She was adamant about the power of Emotional Resolution on the Self (EmRes-Self).

After I recovered a little from the impact of her story, I reflected on my own use of ER-Self. Every time I had the presence to [stop, close my eyes, let go of my mind, feel the physical sensation in my body, allow them to change, observe them lightly until they were gone], it worked. My troubling emotion, present in me at the time, was gone.

You can practice from the instructions in this blog and get it right. But sometimes we have questions and need face to face time with an instructor. I teach classes in ER-Self, both to groups and privately in-person and on the phone.

Please learn this amazing act of Self-Care. Just like a nose-bleed or cut on our finger, we need to take care of ourselves when our body demands attention, whether it shows up as actual blood or as a troubling emotion that affects our ability to effectively navigate our life and world.

Are you ready to take Self-Care to the next level?

Learn ER-Self with a group (In Dallas, Tx)

Learn ER-Self individually, on the phone or in-person