Wednesday, September 03, 2014

The prevalence of birth trauma

Since I had a baby in 2012, I've become aware of just how prevalent birth trauma is. This is true the world over and it is certainly not any better in developed countries like Ireland and the US than it is in developing countries. In fact, you could say it's worse in developed countries because we should know better with the resources that we have available to us.

Many women are incorrectly diagnosed with postnatal depression when in fact they have been traumatised (with or without all the symptoms of PTSD). It's very important to realise that the only person who can definitively say you are traumatised is you. You are your own best advocate. Trauma is a very subjective thing and cannot be defined or diagnosed in a totally objective way. You know when you don't feel like yourself, you're not sleeping, you're often angry, fearful or in a rage and you're having all sorts of emotional and physical issues. No one person matches a diagnosis perfectly, and too many slip through the diagnostic net and don't get the help that they need. Having the label of being traumatised can be stigmatising, but the root of the word trauma means wound, and it is absolutely okay to say that you've been hurt and that you need help, you just need to find the right help for you.

I liken the way many obstetricians treat the emotional well being of women to someone like me completely negating the importance of their physical well being. For example, if a client comes to me and I put them in a chair with nails poking out and expect them to sit on it for an entire hour and say nothing, the room is freezing cold and they need to use the bathroom and there is none. They've also gotten wet because it has been raining and there is nowhere to hang up their coat and get dry and warm. Then I say to them, well you're here to deal with your emotional issues, so it doesn't really matter if you're extremely physically uncomfortable does it? Doesn't that sound ridiculous? Doesn't every good practitioner take into account of all their client's psychological and physical needs?

Many doctors (and obstetricians in particular) need to stop ignoring the huge body of psychological research that illustrates just how important our psychological and emotional health is and how it is greatly impacted by stress; any source of stress.

We need to stop blaming women for not “being stronger” not being able to “tune out the fear” not doing their hynobirthing correctly, not being positive enough, not being calm enough, not being anything enough. We are not islands, we all need support, and all the more so when we are vulnerable and pregnant and all pregnant women are vulnerable in some way. Many women would need a will of iron to not be affected by what has gone on during their pregnancies and births. And health care providers need to stop abdicating their responsibilities in these matters. They need to stop thinking along the lines of  “live mother, live baby”, if they even care about the mother that is, because that is the least of the outcomes that we all deserve as human beings. How we birth matters and how our babies are born matters, a lot.

Some useful sites

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