The birth of a child is supposed to be one of the best moments in your life. As a mother, you have spent nine months carrying this child in your womb and now it is time to meet your bundle of joy. You have prepared for this moment and although you are anticipating pain, you are also expecting a joyous experience.
Unfortunately, that is not always the case for women across the country. Reports have come out of women having such traumatic birth experiences they are permanently scared physically, mentally and emotionally. What once started as the happiest day of your life has now turned into the worst day. This trauma may turn into resentment for your newborn child and can even lead to PTSD and other mental disorders.
What causes birth trauma?
Birth trauma can be caused by several different reasons. The most common are:
- Emergency C-section
- Insufficient pain relief
- Loss of the baby
- A long labor
- Feeling unsafe during labor and delivery
The baby may also experience trauma as a result of medical providers not taking certain conditions into consideration. They can often ignore signs simply to deliver the baby. Medical professionals need to more adequately communicate what they are doing and why. It is not their body or their baby. Once they leave the room, they may never even see the mother or baby again.
The stigma behind talking about traumatic birth
One of the reasons that birth trauma has not been adequately addressed is because not enough people are talking about it. There is an ingrained cultural belief that giving birth is nothing short of a miraculous experience, even if it’s a painful one. This makes it difficult for mothers to share their traumatic delivery experiences with others. Some even think that the trauma they experienced is normal and they are simply overreacting – or are led to believe they’ve done something wrong if they had a “bad” experience.
However, birth trauma goes far deeper than a “bad” experience. Trauma, as described by Elyssa Barbash in Psychology today, “in and of itself relies on a person’s subjective experience of an event and to what extent they believe their life, bodily integrity, or psychological well-being was threatened.”
Medical trauma is birth trauma
Aside from the possibility of birth trauma there is also the possibility of experiencing medical trauma. Medical trauma can often feel like an assault. This was the case for Ally, who told BuzzFeed News that she experienced medical trauma before ever seeing a delivery room. During a prenatal visit, her doctor inserted a speculum without consent or warning. The doctor also did something similar after she gave birth due to a retained placenta.
The doctor reached inside of Ally without warning or explanation to manually remove the placenta. Ally felt like a helpless human puppet at that moment. Ally sought help after her experience due to her trauma and subsequent postpartum depression. She had to pay out of pocket for this program.
PTSD as an effect of traumatic birth
A traumatic birth experience can change the way that women view childbirth for the rest of their lives. In one case described to BuzzFeed, a woman named Emily became so traumatized by her experience that when her friends and loved ones were in labor, she had anxiety for them.
During her birth process, the doctor noticed that the baby was not properly positioned and without warning the doctor penetrated her with his hands and moved the baby’s position. The doctor never communicated to her or her husband what his intent was and if she was comfortable with it.
The trauma she experienced may have caused her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. PTSD presents as flashbacks and hypervigilance. The person becomes so aware of everything that happens with their baby that they may become overbearing. Like Emily, this can also manifest in being hypervigilant of friends and loved ones who are in labor.
We need to talk about birth trauma to help protect mothers
Women, especially those who are giving birth for the first time, may want to be unproblematic patients and may not speak up when they should. As with most people, they trust that doctors know what they are doing and that their best interests are being considered. This is especially true during the birthing process as many women’s main concern is having a healthy baby, often putting their own needs on the back burner.
It has been reported that Black and Hispanic women have a higher chance of experiencing birth trauma because when they do ask questions, they are often not being heard. This leaves Women of Color in a position where they do not feel they have control of their own body and that their rights are being violated.
That is why we need to address birth trauma publicly and often, to help eliminate the stigma that is associated with a traumatic birth. We need to do this for our loved ones and for the women we don’t know, too. By bringing these stories to the world, we can help protect mothers and mothers-to-be who feel anxious, alone, and inadequate.
What can I do to protect myself or my loved one during pregnancy and delivery?
You have the right to demand a level of care from your doctors, no matter what kind of doctors they are. If they fail in this duty, it is an act of medical negligence at best, and an act of assault at worst. You have the right to be informed at every step. As such, you could:
- Insist that your doctors answer your questions and explain the process and procedures to you.
- Seek a second opinion if your doctor is recommending a procedure or treatment that seems excessive or unwarranted, or appears to brush off or ignore your needs.
- Request copies of your medical records to ensure that all of your concerns have been noted, and that your doctor has told you everything you need to know.
If you have experienced any type of birth injury or trauma, do not be scared to voice your concerns. You should not have to live with an injury or trauma for the rest of your life as a result from someone else’s negligence. Contact the birth injury attorneys from Gainsberg Law P.C. Call our office in Chicago at 312-600-9585, or complete a contact form to schedule a consultation with a member of our team today. We serve clients throughout Cook County.
Neal S. Gainsberg has spent the last 20 years fighting to protect the rights of the injured in Chicago and throughout Illinois. From consumer rights and bankruptcy to catastrophic injuries and wrongful death, Mr. Gainsberg stands up to large corporations, insurance companies, creditors and hospital administrators to ensure that his clients’ futures are safe and secure. Learn More