Birth trauma, why is this even a thing?
Updated: Oct 15, 2022
We are hearing this phrase more and more and more. Birth trauma. Why is it a thing? why does it exist? And more importantly why on earth does it happen to so many birthing women and parents?
I had a conversation this week with a client about her traumatic birth that ended in an emergency C- section.
She was induced, for no real reason. Which she could have declined, but she didn’t realise she could say no. From induction, very frequently comes a cascade of interventions to make the body do something it’s not ready to do. Unfortunately this is not a rare occurrence. I have conversations very similar to this, far too frequently.
It just should not be happening.
Obviously there is sometimes a medical need to get baby out. Sometimes things occur that cannot be helped and emergency's happen, and c-sections save lives!
I'm also very aware that I don't want birth workers to read this and feel like I'm blaming them. This is more a rant at the system, there are some amazing birth workers out there doing amazing things. There obviously are some not so good ones too though!
I just can't help but feel there's a definite increase of interventions that probably weren't needed, purely from speaking to people around me. It's these unnecessary interventions that lead to more emergencies.
I came across this infographic online from Unfold your Wings. I think it explains it brilliantly.
So many people are not given choices. They are not given the information, not told the risks and the benefits of the procedures that are being suggested so that they can make their own informed decision.
Birthing parents are just being pushed through the system, another statistic. Not being listened to and not being given choices.
So many times we hear people saying things like
"I was told...."
"I'm not allowed..."
"They won't let me...."
None of those sentences should ever be part of labour and birth.
The percentage of births that are happening in the theatre now is huge. Either assisted births (forceps etc) or c-secs. It seems to be getting worse. What the hell is happening?
It seems like waiting for natural labour to occur is taking too long. Things need to be quicker. Things need to be sped up. They need birthing women and people out of the hospital so they can get more in maybe?? Who knows the reasons, but at the end of it all are traumatised people. Parents with cuts and scars, parents with irreparable damage to their bodies. Parents left with physical scars and massive emotional ones that may never fade. Parents with all this trauma - and then sent home with a tiny baby to look after!! and they're offered no psychological help.
Most hospitals offer a birth reflections service, the waiting list for an appointment locally is long!! I think that says it all.
How many families are being put through unnecessary interventions and trauma, and just left to get on with it?
With my client this week, we discussed how the staff are probably so used to seeing it all happen. So used to giving the drugs. So used to getting their boxes ticked. It’s just another day for them.
And how sad is that? That they don’t even really see the impact of what they’re doing?? I assume some of them want things to change, I’m definitely not tarring all with the same brush, but the system is flawed for sure.
Has birth become so medicalised for birth workers that they just find it so normal to intervene in nature? Have they seen too many emergencies that they're scared of bad things happening, so just want to get baby out?
Are we, as the birthing women and people, seeing too much of the interventions in the media that we think this is the way things happen?
It’s just been so normalised to need inductions and interventions, and that in itself is just not on.
All we see in the media is scary births. People laid on their backs screaming in pain being told when to push.
This seeps into our subconscious. This is what we think birth is - AND IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!!
With my first this was what I thought it was. I went to hospital for them to tell me how to have a baby. My baby ended up being pulled out with forceps leaving me with a 3rd degree tear.
I had done no research. I had zero knowledge of what our bodies could do.
I did breastfeeding classes and researched that, but nothing about what happens during birth and what I can do to help myself. How stupid was I?
(Read my birth stories here if you're interested.)
So that’s me stepping off my soapbox !
If you’re expecting. Please fill your brain with knowledge. Know what happens to your body. Trust it to work with your baby and birth wonderfully.
Know your rights.
Your body. Your baby. Your birth. Your choice!!
Make sure your birth partner knows your wishes. You cannot advocate for yourself when you’re in the throes of labour. You cannot, your partner needs to be able to do it for you.
Birth doesn’t have to be scary, it doesn’t have to be medicalised. It doesn’t have to end in trauma. It doesn’t have to look like the ones they show on tv.
Unless of course you want all the drugs! It’s ultimately your choice. You just need to be given all the information so that you can make informed choices about your body and your birth.
If you didn’t get the birth you want, if you suffered trauma, know you’re not alone, and more importantly it was NOTHING that you did or didn’t do.
If you feel able to, feed back your experiences to PALS at your hospital. Nothing will ever change if nobody shouts.
If you need some support, you can reach out to the Birth Trauma Association
Some fabulous accounts to follow:
This is a lovely account if you'd like to watch some amazing births. They are graphic, and I would never have been able to watch them following my first birth, so here's your trigger warning. https://www.instagram.com/badassmotherbirther/?hl=en
Hypnobirthing can also be a very very useful tool. It helps you to relax, trust your body, and advocate for yourself.
Here’s a lovely company that have lots of local practitioners.
And this book may well be worth a read
Thanks for reading my thoughts,