Post Traumatic Stree Disorder (Ptsd) After Childbirth

PTSD is a serious condition that affects millions of women.

At The Catalyst Center we work to support women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.  One of the areas in which we work is Birth Trauma.  It is reported that between 25% and 35% of mothers report experiencing a traumatic childbirth experience.  

The causes of birth trauma include:

  -Medical Interventions, especially ones the mother feels were unnecessary
   -Lack of control during pregnancy and/or birth
   -Lack of support from partner and/or staff
   -Injuries experienced by mother or baby during childbirth

 Signs and Symptoms

Some women recover more quickly than others, physically and psychologically, while some find themselves struggling to move forward.  Typically the mothers who are struggling have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Signs of Birth Trauma and PTSD include:

    Irritability and angry outbursts
    Panic attacks
    Nightmares about the birth
    A desire to avoid the baby or anything relating to the birth
    Feelings of detachment from loved ones
    A sense that some other disaster is imminent
    Physiological and psychological reactions to reminders of the birth
    Flashbacks of birth experience
    Lack of memory of birth experience
    Fear of having subsequent children


 Try to not judge yourself.  Your feelings and reactions are normal for someone who as encountered trauma.  People may tell you, “As long as the baby is ok, you should feel fine about your birth experience”.  While they are trying to be helpful, please keep in mind that this just is not true.  Your birth experience matters!  As Barbara Katz Rothman said, “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers-strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.”  Here are some suggestions to start the healing process:

    Do not judge yourself.  Remember: your feelings and reactions are a normal reaction to trauma
    Get support from family and friends
    Join a moms group
    Find support online
    Get help caring for baby
    Give yourself time to heal
    Create art
    Write in a journal
    Write letters to the hospital staff (you do not have to mail them)
    Therapy, including EMDR
    Find places to talk about your birth story
    Body work (massage, mani/pedi)
    Write your birth story
    Re-write your birth story as you wish it had happened
    Skin-to-skin contact with baby
    Talking to baby about what the two of you experienced
    Obtain medical records so you know exactly what happened
    Consider talking to your doctor about medication

You do not have to go through this alone.  If you or a loved one are struggling with Birth Trauma and PTSD, please contact The Catalyst Center.  Change Begins Today!

*Adapted from: Griebenow, Jennifer J (Winter 2006). Healing the Trauma: Entering Motherhood with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Midwifery Today Issue 80.

The Catalyst Center is here to help.  We offer individual, couple, and family therapy, as well as a Birth Circle where mothers can share birth stories.  Please contact us for more information by calling 720-675-7123 or emailing us at

Dr. Katie Godfrey is a therapist at The Catalyst Center. Her specialties include:

    LGBTQ Support
    Pregnancy, Childbirth and Postpartum Issues
    Couples and Relationships
    Trauma Recovery
    Parenting Coaching
    Personal Growth
    Anxiety, Worry, and Panic

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