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What is Birth Trauma ?

(Taken from Birth Trauma Association )

Birth trauma is a shorthand phrase for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after childbirth. We also use it for women who have some symptoms of PTSD, but not enough for a full diagnosis ( sub threshold trauma).


PTSD was first identified amongst soldiers returning from the Vietnam War, and most people still think of it as a condition experienced by soldiers. In fact, PTSD can follow any traumatic event – such as being in a car accident, being sexually abused or having a very difficult birth. It can also happen to people who have witnessed a traumatic event, so people who have seen someone else violently killed, for example, often experience PTSD. This is why some partners, and even midwives, experience PTSD after seeing a traumatic birth.

In most cases, what makes birth traumatic is the fear that you or your baby are going to die. We very often see birth trauma in women who have lost a lot of blood, for example, or who had to have an emergency caesarean because their baby’s heartrate suddenly dipped.

Symptoms of birth trauma (postnatal PTSD)

There are four main symptoms:
  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event through flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories. These make you feel distressed and panicky.

  • Avoiding anything that reminds you of the trauma. This can mean refusing to walk past the hospital where you gave birth, or avoiding meeting other women with new babies.

  • Feeling hypervigilant: this means that you are constantly alert, irritable and jumpy. You worry that something terrible is going to happen to your baby.

  • Feeling low and unhappy. You may feel guilty and blame yourself for your traumatic birth. You may have difficulty remembering parts of your birth experience.

Not everyone who has had a traumatic experience suffers from PTSD, but many do. It’s a completely normal response, and not a sign of weakness. It’s also involuntary: brain scans show a difference between the brains of people with PTSD and those without. PTSD is not something that can be cured by “pulling yourself together” or “focusing on the positive,” despite what other people tell you.

Who gets birth trauma?

Some women experience events during childbirth (as well as in pregnancy or immediately after birth) that would traumatise any normal person.

For other women, it is not always the sensational or dramatic events that trigger childbirth trauma but other factors such as loss of control, loss of dignity, the hostile attitudes of the people around them, feelings of not being heard or the absence of informed consent to medical procedures.

There is still a lot of research to be done, but some of the factors that make birth trauma more likely are:
  • Lengthy labour or short and very painful labour

  • Induction

  • Poor pain relief

  • Feelings of loss of control

  • High levels of medical intervention

  • Forceps births

  • Emergency caesarean section

  • Impersonal treatment or problems with staff attitudes

  • Not being listened to

  • Lack of information or explanation

  • Lack of privacy and dignity

  • Fear for baby's safety

  • Stillbirth

  • Birth of a baby with a disability resulting from a traumatic birth

  • Baby’s stay in the special care baby unit or neonatal intensive care unit

  • Poor postnatal care

  • Previous trauma (for example, in childhood, with a previous birth or domestic violence)

Finally, people who witness their partner’s traumatic childbirth experience may also feel traumatised as a result. 

So how do we treat this trauma

Fortunately, human givens practitioners are taught a simple and effective way to deal with all these


circumstances. If a traumatic memory is causing panic attacks, phobias or post-traumatic stress, they can use a


powerful, painless visualisation procedure, known as The Rewind Technique, to take the emotion out of the


memory and enable the memory of the event to be stored away as history, instead of as one that continues to


intrude on the present. The memory remains, and always will remain, a deeply unpleasant one but no longer is it


emotionally arousing. This technique has beed approved of but the Royal College of Midwives and has been


shown  be very quick and effective in dealing with trauma. This method can work swiftly and reliably even in the most


extreme of cases.


Follow this link to find out more about The Rewind Technique




Other evidence discussing the use of The Rewind Technique with birth trauma:


Adams, Shona, and Steven Allan. “Human Givens Rewind Trauma Treatment: Description and Conceptualisation.” Mental health review journal 24.2 (2019): 98–111. Web.


Slater, P.M. “Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Managed Successfully with Hypnosis and the Rewind Technique: Two Cases in Obstetric Patients.” International journal of obstetric anesthesia 24.3 (2015): 272–275. Web.


Gray, Richard M, and Richard F Liotta. “PTSD: Extinction, Reconsolidation, and the Visual-Kinesthetic Dissociation Protocol.” Traumatology (Tallahassee, Fla.)18.2 (2012): 3–16. Web.

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