It’s birth trauma awareness week. But honestly, I feel like this issue needs the spotlight every week.
What is birth trauma? For many, thoughts jump to physical trauma. Especially with eye rolling comments such as birthing watermelons… we’ve all heard them. However, for the vast majority of women birth trauma affects them psychologically.
Birth trauma is defined by the individual and it is whatever that individual says it is.
Birth matters and birth affects all of us. We are all born, our mothers as well as ourselves went through that experience and whether we consciously remember it or our brains have gone through the protective mechanism of blocking it out, the memory of our experience is stored in our bodies, to be released at another time in other ways. This could be through behavioural traits, fears, phobias and anxieties, through a physical barrier to birthing future babies. How women feel about their birth can affect how they mother, especially if they do not get adequate support in the postnatal period. Postpartum depression effects 1:6, with suicide being the leading cause of maternal mortality in Australia. Postpartum depression has negative implications on the cognitive development of babies of an affected mother. Birth trauma can inhibit women properly bonding with their baby and the more we learn about trauma, especially regarding attachment styles, we know this can have long lasting implications.
Birth trauma can be physical and have lasting effects on quality of life. It can hinder a woman’s confidence, effect how she feels about herself, her body or her sexuality. Birth trauma affects women, babies, partners, families and communities. And the prevalence is rising.
One in three Australian women report their births as being traumatic. With certain population groups, such as women with a history of sexual abuse more susceptible. Beyond this 1:10 are leaving their birth experience with post-traumatic stress disorder. No wonder women are going into birth with fear. Parenting a new baby is challenging enough without having a triggering and at times incapacitating mental health illness.
I feel like the title of Birth trauma is misleading. It implies that the birth itself is what causes women to feel traumatised. But this isn’t what women are reporting.
Research on the subject has found that women report poor treatment from care providers as the most traumatic aspects of their birth.
Not feeling listened to or that they were active participants in their care.
Being made to fear their or their baby’s lives were in danger whether that was real or perceived or used as a coercion tactic.
Medical interventions being performed without proper explanation.
So, what do you do if you have experienced a traumatic birth? The answer to this is going to be different for everyone but I’m going to share some options and resources you might find helpful.
In the early days:
Support, support, support!
-Do what you can to get sleep, a proper sleep can work wonders. If you are having trouble sleeping try things like a bath or foot soak if baths are not appropriate for you, or herbs like chamomile and passionflower.
-Good quality supplements. Magnesium and Omega-3 DHA both help to protect the brain and reduce the effects of anxiety and insomnia. We suggest Bioceuticals due the higher bioavailability compared with many store bought supplements. Contact us here to order.
-Calm your nervous system (which is likely running in overdrive) with essential oils lavender and copaiba, Australian bush flower essence and rescue remedy.
-Medicinal mushrooms and adaptogens. We specifically recommend Reishi and Ashwaganda. Use the code DTBM10% for a discount with Superfeast
-Nourishing foods! This is essential. Foods that are warm, easy on your digestion system and high in minerals such as iron, silica, iodine, omega fatty acids, zinc and calcium. Often a symptom of depression or anxiety is a suppressed appetite. Keep it simple! Bone broths, miso soup, nourishing teas. If you don’t put anything good in your body, you won’t feel good.
Cooking for yourself is the last thing you should be doing. Call on your village and reach out for a meal train. Or if your village aren’t close by, see if they can pitch in for a postpartum meal delivery service.
-Get practical support. In the way of a cleaner, postpartum doula, babysitter for your other kids.
-Get breastfeeding support. Often medical interventions and stress can impact breastfeeding and your milk supply. Don’t struggle more than you need to, invest in help from a lactation consultant early. When you’re down, tired and just feeling done you may not have the same passion for reaching your breastfeeding goals as you did during pregnancy. But breastfeeding can assist in reducing postpartum depression due to all the lovely hormones it releases, which also help you bond with your baby. I cannot stress this enough… Get help early! Contact me to find out about breastfeeding support. Very soon I will be able to offer you a rebate if your private health insurance covers lactation consultations.
-Feel your feelings, really allow yourself to do this. Have a big cry in the shower. Imagine the water washing away and aiding this release. And name those feelings. For example, I feel a knot in my stomach, that knot feels like anger, that anger comes from… explore it and release it. Things like tapping, screaming, moving your body, whatever you need to do to move through this. You can come back to this at any time. Your feelings are valid even if you and your baby are healthy, you are allowed to grieve your experience, feel no guilt in that.
-Get a massage! Touch helps to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, calm your nervous system, supports sleep and reduces physical pain, among many other benefits. The massage we offer is Ayurvedic inspired and is especially for postpartum healing. You can learn more about out massage service Here! We use specially formulated organic Ayurvedic oils to help resort your body back into balance. If you’re not in our area you can still access these healing oils from IBU Ayurveda and can get a discount using the code DTMB10%.
-Get outside! Bare feet on the Earth, sun on your face, out in nature. Even simply standing on the Earth bare feet, also termed Grounding, can help to decrease inflammation, pain, cortisol release and stress and helps to improve your sleep.
-If you’re still feeling really highly strung and unregulated, get acupuncture! It is my absolute go to when I am holding tension in my body.
Other resources for the immediate postpartum:
Little Yarrow for naturopathic support. Kate has a beautiful podcast series which explains a range of different pregnancy and postpartum mood disorders and naturopathic advise to support them. I was lucky enough to be featured on one of her episodes.
Lily Nichols for postpartum meal ideas. Her blog post Real Food Postpartum Recovery Meals.
The Postpartum Depletion Cure a book by Dr Oscar Serralach, to learn more on the role of nutrition in postpartum mood disruption.
Ok, I feel like I could go on for a really long time about this so I’m going to give you time to integrate this information and check back in with a part two that will follow on with suggestions of what to do after the immediate postpartum time.
Please get in contact with me if you need any support during your postpartum or processing a traumatic birth.