For many mums and dads who have experienced a traumatic birth just the thought of going through it again can trigger anxiety, panic, flashbacks, nightmares, anger and other unpleasant and relentless PTSD symptoms. For some just the thought of ‘it’ is too much and these couples decide to stick with the hand they have and not have anymore children through fear of suffering the same fate again. But for other couples who find themselves pregnant again the fear of birth can be paralysing as all of the old feelings come rushing back.
However it is not only possible to have a good birth after a difficult one but also to find it a healing experience too.
If you are reading this and thinking about your next birth after a difficult first experience then I would like to reassure you that any cynicism you maybe feeling is perfectly normal and justified given what you went through the first time.
Symptoms of anxiety (throwing up ‘what ifs’ at every turn), panic (ringing in your ears whenever you think of ‘THAT’), anger at what happened before and sadness are also all completely normal responses to what was a traumatic event for you. However it is those symptoms that can get in the way of believing in and planning in a better birth experience next time.
Here is my guide to getting the birth experience you deserve next time round:
- If there were issues with your birth that you didn’t understand you can ask for a debrief with the Supervisor of Midwives (SoM) who should be able to explain why what happened, happened by talking through your notes. This is useful to gain a fuller understanding but might not resolve any of the strong feelings you have about your previous birth. When hospitals are at fault and an apology is offered it can go a long way to resolving feelings of anger and sadness.
- If you still find that you are plagued with fear, anxiety, panic, flashbacks, anger or any other PTSD symptoms whenever you think or hear about birth then it might be worth seeking treatment with someone who specializes in lifting the symptoms that can remain after a traumatic birth experience. EMDR and CBT are both available on the NHS but often have long waiting lists. The Rewind technique can be very effective and is offered by some Perinatal Mental Health Midwives at some forward thinking hospitals and by other birth professionals working privately. Click here for a full list of practitioners. This technique aims to neutralise the symptoms that can prevent you from believing in the potential of a healing birth experience.
- With the toxic emotions of fear and anxiety lifted there is a window of opportunity to plan for your next birth more positively and I would recommend this ABC approach to getting the birth you want:
A: Hire a birth doula; she can protect your birth space, advocate for you, provide comfort and support throughout your birth.
B: Get educated; take a birth preparation class that re-connects you with your body and it’s ability to birth well. Mindfulness, hypnosis, and active birth classes all offer the opportunity to learn techniques that will help you to cope during labour.
C: Go back to the Supervisor of Midwives to discuss a Personalised Care Plan that tells your care providers unequivocally how you would like to be supported during your next labour. This plan can pay special attention to any interventions that have the potential to re-trigger any PTSD symptoms and should ensure that care providers are sensitive to your first birth trauma (and extremely keen to avoid a repeat).
For more information about how the 3 Step Rewind technique can bring relief from PTSD symptoms visit www.traumaticbirthrecovery.com