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How To Recover From PTSD After A Traumatic Birth

maternal mental wellness motherhood identity postpartum ptsd working moms Jan 14, 2022

How To Recover From PTSD After A Traumatic Birth

The birthing event for women is so individual and not every experience goes smoothly. There are complications, challenges, traumatic events.  The secret that many of us hold after birth is just how traumatic it was.  Enormous physical pain, mental pain, loss, and grief can consume our thoughts.  When these thoughts enter our mind and we are taken back to the traumatic event to relive it when triggered, over and over, this pattern is considered post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and it does happen after birth.  If you’re experiencing this, I want you to know that this is not chronic and it can be overcome.  


Step 1:  If it feels traumatic to you, then it was traumatic.  Do not let anyone suppress or minimize your experience. The emotional or physical pain you endured was real if you felt it. 

Acknowledging that you did go through a traumatic experience is the first step toward recovery.  In this acknowledgment, recognize the strength and courage it took to get through it.  


Step 2:  Recognize the things that trigger your memory and take you back into reliving the traumatic event.  Taking a moment to recognize this will help you navigate the best path to recovery.  

For example, I experienced a traumatic delivery with the birth of my second child.  I was working hard in that pregnancy to VBAC deliver (vaginal birth after cesarean) as my belief at the time was that I would be able to avoid the postpartum depression that I experienced during my first birth.  (Not really how that works but we’ll cover that in another article.)  After weeks of back labor, hours of non-progressive labor due to my baby being in a posterior position they had to use forceps to get her out without a c-section.  The problem was that my epidural never took so not only was I experiencing a lot of pain from how my baby was positioned but the pain endured from forceps felt absolutely unbearable. I felt trapped, I felt like a failure.  The hospital brought in several medical students to watch the forceps procedure which added to my mental strain and for years when I had typical menstrual cramp pain or tried to be intimate with my husband, my mind went right back to that delivery moment in time.  It haunted me for about 4.5 years until I made the decision that I was ready to stop reliving this moment as a victim and use this experience as a great example of resilience, courage, and commitment as a mother.  


Step 3:  Fully processing grief is important during this recovery process.  Shifting your mindset out of victim mode is such an important step and one that doesn’t just automatically happen.  It happens on everyone’s own timetable but once you’ve fully grieved your traumatic experience, you’ll be ready for your next chapter.  The stages of grief include: 

  1. Denial, numbness, and shock: Numbness is a normal reaction to a death or loss and should never be confused with "not caring."  Often a traumatic birth includes a large component of loss in it.
  2. Bargaining: This stage of grief may be marked by persistent thoughts about what "could have been done" to prevent death or loss.  
  • 3. Depression: In this stage, we begin to realize and feel the true extent of the death or loss.
  • 4. Anger: This stage is common. It usually happens when we feel helpless and powerless. Anger can stem from a feeling of abandonment because of a death or loss.
  • 5. Acceptance: In time, we can come to terms with all the emotions and feelings we experienced when the death or loss happened.

Step 4: Once you’ve crossed the chasm of grief processing and are in the acceptance stage, you’re ready to build the next chapter in your motherhood journey.  This may include rebuilding trust in yourself, rebuilding love for your body, rebuilding intimacy with your partner.  Finding professionals in pelvic floor therapy wellness, postpartum mental health, and building your support team to help you successfully find your identity after PTSD is so important.  

Note: Family, friends, and even your spouse may not understand what you’re going through.  It’s ok, it’s not for them to understand.  The road to recovery can seem quite lonely if those closest to you don’t support you by listening and empathizing with you.  If you find yourself in this situation, this is a great opportunity for you to turn to your higher power and build trust in yourself.  Here is an affirmation that helped me through the most difficult times: 

  • Everything in this universe happens for a purpose.  I’m strong enough to endure this and overcome it.  
  • This experienced happened but it is in the past.  I’m no longer defined by my past.
  • I’m strong standing in my own power.  My worth is not defined by a third party.  It’s defined by me.  I know exactly that my baby and I endured and we will always hold this special bond as superheroes.  Our love bond is extremely strong.
  • I can now help other women going through this know that they are not alone.  Giving life to a tiny human is a really big deal and we’re in this together.  I will support others and hold them high, not diminish their experience or compete with them.  I will be a supporter of mothers from all walks of life.

Step 5:  When you’re heart is ready to move forward, light a candle, take a deep breath, and push all of your air out letting go of the indivisible handcuffs of fear, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, self-doubt.  Freedom is a choice that you’re making.  You are in full control of choosing to live a life full of happy, positive, pain-free memories.  Every moment in this life we get to choose love vs. fear.  In order to love others, we must love ourselves.  Once I started to appreciate myself again, not feel like a failure for experiencing a non-traditional birth, I was able to start to heal.  Perform this ritual for as long as it takes to truly free yourself.

If you have any further questions about how to heal PTSD after a traumatic birth please reach out to Amy Looper at  Amy Looper, Founder of Postpartum Coaching With Heart works with women all over the globe to overcome perinatal mood disorders as an experienced 2x survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety.  Her mission is to help remove the stigma of maternal mental health within our society and workplaces.  Motherhood is a journey, yours can be full of happiness and fulfillment no matter how it begins!


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