Birth trauma can occur in several ways; it can be an event during birth that violates a woman's respect for her body and her decisions, it can be the result of a birth that did not go as hoped, it can be a birth in which the mother did not feel supported, or it can be a situation in which the mother or the baby's health or life was in jeopardy, or where there was a loss of a baby, or loss of reproductive function. "Childbirth is experienced as traumatic in up to 34% of all births, and about one-third of those women have symptoms of Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)." ImprovingBirth.com. My suspicion is that this number is actually higher, based on the amount of unnecessary interventions often used during births, the lack of information shared with mothers during the pregnancy or the birth process, and the absence of true informed concent.
Birth trauma, despite growing numbers is not a normal part of birth, and it doesn't look the same for all women. Some women have an obvious traumatic birth experience in which her well-being and the well-being of her baby were truly in danger, there was a loss of a baby, or where there was an obvious lack of respect from her care provider. However, others are left with a feeling of sadness and void after a seemingly normal, routine, and positive birth, not understanding what has occurred, only to realize, sometimes months or even years later, that the trauma was caused by routine practices and procedures which left her feeling disconnected from her birth experience and her baby.
With increasing amounts of unnecessary interventions, a lack of understand of the emotions and physiology involved in birth, and a lack of evidence based practice, unfortunately birth trauma is on the rise. Thankfully there are things you can do to reduce the chances of birth trauma and increase the chances of a respectful, supported, safe and loving birth experience. Finding a respectful care provider, hiring a doula, reading about evidence based practices, and seeing a counselor to overcome past birth or other types of trauma, are all things that are helpful in preventing and/or overcoming birth trauma.
As a counselor, doula, and especially as a woman who has experienced birth trauma both personally and as a witness, I have a unique perspective on what a woman can do to help reduce her chances of experiencing birth trauma, what support she needs if she is going through a traumatic birth, and what support is helpful in overcoming a traumatic birth.
I spend time with women before birth, helping them gather the information they need to make informed decisions, overcoming past trauma (if necessary), encouraging them to listen to their instincts, helping them formulate the questions that will help them find a care provider that provides up to date evidence based practices, will respect their wishes, provide them with support, and give them all the information they will need to make a truly informed decision. This is how I am able to help improve birth and reduce a woman's chances of having a traumatic birth.
Thanks to Improving Birth, a national nonprofit organization spreading the word "about women being capable of making safer, more informed decisions about their care and that of their babies, when they are given full and accurate information about their care options, including the potential harms, benefits, and alternatives," women are beginning to see and understand the choices they have in childbirth, and are making the choices which improve their birth experience, reduce birth trauma, and empower them to have beautiful and safe births. In Improving Birth’s campaign “Break the Silence,” more and more mothers, fathers, and birth workers are coming out and talking about birth trauma that they have either been a victim of or witnessed. Birth trauma is not normal, and it should be the exception and not the norm. By speaking up about it we will be able to bring attention to those practices in birth which are not only unnecessary but harmful, and pave the road for more respectful and positive births.
Being with a woman and her partner during birth, helping her navigate her choices, encouraging her to listen to her body, supporting her in what she needs, and helping her experience birth in the most positive way possible, are some of the things I can do as a doula, not only to help improve her birth experience and reduce the chances of birth trauma, but most importantly to help her have a powerful and loving birth. If a woman experiences a traumatic birth, I know that my presence makes a traumatic birth more bearable, easier to face and even overcome, by supporting the woman in a difficult situation, being there for her and her partner, helping with coping techniques and providing support. Being there for women to help them through trauma is very important but helping reduce the amount of women experiencing birth trauma, and what is even better, helping to increase the amount of beautiful, safe, satisfying and loving births, so they never have to experience that trauma in the first place is even more important, and that is my way of improving birth and breaking the silence.
If you want to learn more about having a loving birth, or feel that you would like support in healing from a traumatic birth experience, or want to face fears about childbirth, please contact me to learn about the doula, childbirth education, and birth counseling services offered.
A little about me:
Zeresh Altork, M.Ed., CD, CCE, is a mother to two children, has a master’s in counseling and over 15 years of counseling experience, has been a doula and childbirth educator for over 10 years and is a student midwife. She is very active in the birth community, arranges midwife trainings overseas, works closely with other doulas and midwives, and is constantly looking to improve her skills and abilities to best serve the mothers she supports in pregnancy and birth. To find out more about Zeresh and her doula and childbirth services in
and Broward counties you may learn more and contact her through A Loving Birth
by: Palm Beach
Email: Zeresh at alovingbirth dot com