Recovering physically and mentally after a traumatic birth presents a unique set of challenges for parents. For a start there is a baby to look after who is completely dependent 24 hours a day. This is often accompanied with a lack of opportunity for rest or sleep and perhaps the physical challenges of feeding too. Added to this mums maybe physically injured, sore and weak too.
Mentally parents may still feel frazzled, confused or anxious following a difficult birth. If they believed they were in danger or their baby was in danger then this can be replayed in their minds over and over. They may feel angry, with each other, or their care provider at how things spiralled out of their control.
Once back home, in their own environment and with support from others, parents can naturally begin to recover and heal from their experience and begin to thrive as a family. But sometimes this doesn’t happen and the anxiety, panic, sadness, anger, recurrent thoughts (to name just a few PTSD symptoms) can remain and these feelings can take hold of a persons psyche, dominating their day to day existence.
These symptoms can have a number of repercussions on everyday life for parents. The hyper-vigilance and constant high alert can be exhausting and stressful in itself as parents are highly attuned to seeking out problems. Sometimes parents can feel frightened or ashamed of these symptoms fearing for their sanity and reluctant to discuss them with anyone. Feelings of overwhelming sadness or anger can prevent parents from flourishing into new family life.
One of the biggest impacts that these symptoms can have is isolation, especially for mums, who most often are the main carers. And isolation can exacerbate these feelings, providing fertile ground for more introspection, worry, loneliness and despair. In these circumstances it is easy over a period time for a person to be pulled downwards into a cycle of depression where by constant anxiety and worry lead to the physical symptoms of fatigue, problems with sleep and lowered immunity.
When anxiety becomes an everyday experience, the black and white, extreme thinking style that accompanies it can become a person’s jailor, keeping them prisoner by using their own fear. Over a prolonged period of time anxiety produces doubt (‘I don’t think I can cope’), erodes self confidence (‘I am not good enough’), and reduces options available because anxiety says ‘it’s not possible because…’ Anxiety and fear engage the fight or flight response of the amygdala (the emotion centre of the brain) and reduce the ability of the pre frontal cortex in the brain to rationalize or see the grey area of a situation which, of course, gives rise to more black and white thinking and so the cycle of anxiety continues.
To interrupt this cycle of anxiety and depression and prevent it taking hold there are five key measures:
- Resolve the anxiety promoting symptoms that can remain after a difficult birth using a technique such as Rewind.
- Enable parents to identify anxious thinking styles so that they can objectively challenge those thinking patterns for themselves
- Share resources that can naturally provide peace and calm
- Encourage participation in activity that they previously enjoyed
- Encourage interaction with others outside of the home
To learn more about these techniques and how they can facilitate recovery from a traumatic birth go to www.traumaticbirthrecovery.com