How Counselling Can Help With Birth Trauma

Welcome to this Birth Trauma blog where understanding meets compassion, especially for new parents navigating the often unpredictable journey of bringing new life into the world. While the arrival of a baby is celebrated with joy and anticipation, the birthing experience itself can sometimes take an unexpected turn, leaving parents grappling with feelings of distress, disappointment, or trauma.

Have you ever found yourself wondering if your birthing experience was supposed to leave you feeling this way? You’re not alone. This is where  Birth Trauma Counselling can help, as an opportunity to reflect on the birthing process, perhaps grieve for what wasn’t the ‘ideal’ experience and move towards healing. The healing process can then allow you to adjust to parenthood and enjoy your new baby.

Understanding Birth Trauma

Birth trauma can manifest in both physical and emotional forms, stemming from experiences during childbirth that were particularly frightening, unexpected, or overwhelming. Whether it’s due to complications, lack of support, or feelings of loss of control, the impact can resonate deeply with new parents. It’s important to recognise that we are all unique and what may not appear to be a traumatic birth experience from a medical or outside perspective can still be emotionally and physically impactful for you. If you feel traumatised by your experience, that is all that matters, comparing to others’ perceived experiences, better or worse, can be unhelpful.

Here’s a closer look at what constitutes birth trauma:

  • Causes of Birth Trauma: High-risk situations, emergency interventions, or a lack of communication from healthcare providers. Feeling unprepared for the birth or baby arriving early, prenatal anxiety and/or depression can increase the chances of feeling traumatised by the birthing process as can any previous pregnancy losses.
  • Effects of Birth Trauma: Can range from postpartum depression and anxiety to PTSD, affecting bonding with your baby and overall well-being.
  • Physical and Emotional Birth Trauma: Includes physical injuries to the mother or child, as well as emotional distress experienced during or after childbirth.

It’s important to acknowledge that birth trauma can have an impact on both the woman giving birth and her partner who has witnessed the traumatic delivery. Indeed, the partner may feel traumatised and triggered in different ways depending on their own past experiences.

Signs You Might Need Birth Trauma Counselling

Recognising the need for professional support is the first step toward healing. Here are some signs that you or a loved one might benefit from Birth Trauma Counselling:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anger, or fear related to the birthing experience.
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby or enjoying motherhood/fatherhood.
  • Intrusive memories or flashbacks of the birth.
  • Avoiding thinking about or talking about the birth.
  • Feeling isolated or withdrawing from support networks.
  • A sense that you aren’t always present, feeling foggy or dream-like
  • Chronic or difficult physical wounds that keep you tethered to the trauma experience

Seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, and it’s crucial to remember that you’re not alone in this journey. Professional support is available via your GP, Health Visitor, or an experienced qualified counsellor. If you are a partner of a woman experiencing any of the above, or have ongoing emotional impact yourself from witnessing a traumatic birth, help and support is also available via the above channels.

baby just after being born

How Birth Trauma Counselling Can Help

Birth Trauma Counselling is the start of your healing journey. Having time to reflect on and process your experiences in a safe and non-judgmental environment helps you to move away from the trauma and towards healing. Talking to a qualified and experienced counsellor is very different to discussing your experiences with friends and family, who may also be impacted by the events of the birth or desire you to move on before you are ready to.

Therapeutic approaches may include:

Person-centred counselling: focussing on forming a strong therapeutic relationship, offering empathy and a safe holding space for exploration and healing

Use of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques: Helps reframe negative thought patterns related to the birth experience.

Developing Coping Strategies: tools that you can use to regulate yourself and stay present, mindfulness practices and working through trauma, will be useful in empowering you to begin the healing process

Rewind technique: a gentle method of reframing the traumatic event, aimed at reducing trauma symptoms

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): Aids in processing and integrating traumatic memories.

Group Therapy: Connects you with others who have similar experiences, fostering a sense of community and understanding.

Choosing the Right Counsellor for You

Finding a counsellor who specialises in birth trauma can make a significant difference in your healing journey. Here are some tips to guide your search:

Look for experienced, qualified and registered professionals with specific training and experience in birth trauma. Take up free initial meetings to make sure you are a ‘good fit’ for working together.

Ask potential counsellors about their therapeutic approach and how they’ve supported others with similar experiences.

Utilise counselling resources like counselling/therapy  directories, recommendations from healthcare providers, or support groups for referrals.

Starting Your Healing Journey

Taking the first step towards recovery may feel daunting, but here are some practical ways to begin:

  • Prioritise self-care and allow yourself time to rest and reflect.
  • Build a support system of loved ones, healthcare providers, and fellow parents who understand.
  • Take each day at a time, setting small, achievable goals for yourself, focussing on your well-being and your connection with your baby.

Conclusion

Navigating the healing process after experiencing birth trauma is a journey of rediscovery and resilience. By seeking support through counselling, embracing self-care, and building a network of understanding, new parents can find their path to recovery. Remember, reaching out for help is a courageous step towards healing not just for yourself, but for your family too. If this article resonates with you or someone you know, don’t hesitate to share it or reach out for support. Together, we can traverse the path from trauma to healing one step at a time.

Debbie Kelly MSc is an experienced counsellor offering telephone and online counselling. She works with clients experiencing life challenges concerning anxiety, depression, work stress, grief and bereavement, relationship difficulties and miscarriage/pregnancy loss.