Giving birth after experiencing birth trauma

Awareness is growing in Australia about women who are suffering from birth trauma and much is being said in the media, but what exactly is birth trauma?

PANDA defines a traumatic birth as a birth which causes a woman to feel powerless, confused, abandoned, fearful, unheard or disregarded.

This could be a birth which causes physical trauma to mother or baby, a birth which included unplanned interventions or an emergency situation, or it could be a birth which made the woman feel as though she was unsupported.

There are many causes of birth trauma, and the effects of this can range from difficulty sleeping to severe mental illness, but help is available.

Debriefing with a health care professional can give you a chance to sort through your feelings and may also involve you being referred to a support network or practitioner who can support you in the longer term.

A number of women who have experienced birth trauma are reluctant to have another baby, or are requesting cesareans, rather than risk having another traumatic birth.

While both of these options are valid choices, ideally you should be assisted to work towards having a birth which is safe, supported and meets the needs of you and your family, rather than undergoing a needless operation, or deciding against having a much wanted child.

Identifying what is important to you and then working to ensure you have access to that need, is one thing which will increase the likelihood of you having a more satisfying birth.

Is pain relief high on the list of important features for you? If so, it is worth looking into which hospitals are most likely to provide the fastest access to an epidural upon request.

Is having a large support team with you during your birth important to you? Consider a birth center or home birth, where your support people will be able to be with you throughout the birth and postnatal period.

Would you prefer to have one person caring for you during your pregnancy, birth and after baby arrives? This is possible with private midwife care, or if you are happy with two or three people caring for you, Group midwifery will work well for you.

With care and support, women who suffer from trauma from a previous birth can have a positive and empowering next birth experience.

More information about birth trauma is available from COPE and PANDA and assistance is also available through Dauntless Birth with Birth trauma debriefing.

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