The cause and effects of Postpartum PTSD

Amanda Roe: Acupuncture and Clinical Hypnotherapist.
Call 087 6331898

Most people have heard of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and associate it with the effects of a traffic accident or war-related experience. What many do not realise is that in Ireland postpartum or perinatal PTSD (PPTSD) is a birth trauma affecting three per cent of all new mothers and approximately six per cent of women following an emergency caesarean section.

The cause of postpartum trauma is unique to each woman, however it can be caused by feeling a loss of control, vulnerability or danger to themselves or their baby ie. premature labour, unplanned C-Section, prolapsed cord, postpartum haemorrhage, use of a vacuum extractor/forceps to deliver the baby, or any need for the baby to go into a neonatal intensive care unit. However uncomplicated vaginal delivery, breastfeeding problems and sleep deprivation can also be traumatic for a new mother.

I experienced PPTSD when after being diagnosed with severe preeclampsia I was rushed to hospital for an emergency cesarean-section. Although the surgeon and nursing staff were wonderful, it was a traumatic experience for both my husband and I. I was disappointed not to have had the natural birth I had planned and, although I was positive and seemed to recover quickly shortly afterwards, I slipped into postnatal depression and a fog that left me exhausted and made everything seem overwhelming.

Some women who elect to have a home birth and have to transition to a hospital birth find the experience traumatic, as staff are on high alert, the lights are bright and the hospital busy. One of my clients who got airlifted in from an island said “My midwife called for the air ambulance as she felt I was getting tired, and she did not want to risk that I would become exhausted. The transition into the helicopter was calm and relaxed, the journey was comfortable and I retained my birthing mindset, however when we landed, the hospital staff were on red alert, shouting excitedly and in a hurry,. My midwife tried to explain that everything was normal and we were only transferring to the hospital as a precaution but no one seemed to be listening, I felt powerless, as they induced me; it was almost like I didn’t matter…” Feeling powerless during your birthing experience and poor communication and/or lack of support and reassurance during delivery can make delivery a traumatic experience.

When a past trauma still feels real and present, it can lead to feelings of detachment, depression, general anxiety or panic attacks. Some women may even relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks which leave them feeling overly emotional or hyper vigilant.

Women who have experienced a previous trauma, such as rape or sexual abuse, are at a higher risk of experiencing PPTSD so it is important to process and recover from these experiences as much as possible if you are planning to get pregnant.

PPTSD and trauma are treatable, with support you can rebuild your confidence and dissolve the strong negative emotions attached to these past experiences.

Amanda Roe is a clinical hypnotherapist and acupuncturist who uses a range of holistic therapies including dietary guidance to improve fertility, emotional and mental health. Supporting natural recovery from trauma, eating disorders and other mind/body illness. for more information or to book a consultation visit or call/text Amanda on: 087 6331898

WCP Staff

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