Midwives can help traumatised new mums

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About a third of women are traumatised by childbirth ...

But counselling by midwives can ease their distress.

... Debra Creedy surveyed 1038 pregnant Australians with no previous history of mental illness.

About 30 per cent described childbirth as "horrific" or "terrifying" after they gave birth.

"They feared for their life or that of their baby," ...

Untreated trauma could lead to anxiety or postnatal depression ... or fear of giving birth again.

"Unless these sort of emotions are dealt with in a productive way they can have lasting effects on women."

"We found midwives are very well placed to support the emotional needs of women because they understand childbirth," ...

"They can talk with the woman about what happened and why that procedure may have been necessary and to normalise a woman's responses." ...

It's often unspoken, but it's real and it matters. It's great that good quality research is being done into this sensitive and almost-taboo topic so that women are able to access help when they feel they need it. My practice has supported many women who have described their birth as traumatic. The most common feature isn't a drug-free birth, a caesarean, an epidural or so on - it's about not being listened to and respected, not experiencing care from one midwife who is known to the woman in advance of labour - and whom the woman likes and trusts - and feeling a sense of loss of control over what is happening in labour. Of course, labour is all about losing control. But control in the sense of birth trauma is very much about the feeling that decisions have been taken away and feeling that you don't have a voice - either because of exhaustion, confusion, fear or a lack of understanding. These feelings can overwhelm a woman's coping mechanisms in labour and this is when birth can be perceived as traumatic.

I see birth trauma in women who have experienced the "cascade of intervention" that culminates in a forceps birth or a caesarean, as much as I see it in women who experienced a natural and drug-free birth that was not their intention. It's not so much about "what" happens in labour, as much as it is about being prepared for what might reasonably happen, and supported by a known, liked and trusted care provider if things don't go to plan.