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Birth trauma can cause post traumatic stress disorder

Victor Lewin - Friday, October 23, 2015

A rare but devastating consequence of some women's childbirth experience is the onset not of postpartum depression, which is actually quite common, but post traumatic stress disorder.

This condition is usually related to some trauma that occurred during the birthing process. Even when a healthy child is born, if the doctor or midwife was particularly rough or completely insensitive, the very real physiological symptoms of PTSD can appear. They may include:

-- Frightening flashbacks

-- Nightmares

-- Insomnia

-- Irritability

-- Panic attacks

-- Angry outbursts

-- Avoiding the baby

-- Avoiding anything that reminds them of the birth

-- Feeling detached from loved ones

-- A sense of impending doom

-- Suicidal thoughts

Some women may feel bullied into having unnecessary Caesarean sections that may cause them to develop painful complications or expose them to dangerous infections. Hearing horror stories of other mothers' babies who died as a result of not getting a C-section can play in an endless loop inside a new mother's head and interfere with her bonding with her newborn.

Psychological and physiological reactions to negative birth triggers like the anniversary of the trauma, which of course is also the baby's birthday, is one unfortunate consequence. Another trigger is seeing the site of the birth. As this is often the community hospital, women with urgent health needs may decline necessary treatment at the same facility.

Severe cases of PTSD can have negative repercussions on all aspects of the traumatised mother's life, affecting her intimate relationship with her baby's father and ostracising her from others in her life.

Not every unpleasant birth experience will rise to the level of true medical malpractice. However, if the birth of your baby was especially traumatising due to actions by medical professionals, and you are unable to resume your normal life, it may be possible to pursue a claim for damages.

Source: Midwifery Today, "Healing the Trauma: Entering Motherhood with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder," Jennifer Jamison Griebenow, accessed Oct. 16, 2015

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