Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Approximately 1-6% of women experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following childbirth. Most often, this illness is caused by a real or perceived trauma during delivery or postpartum. These traumas could include:
- Prolapsed cord
- Unplanned C-section
- Use of vacuum extractor or forceps to deliver the baby
- Baby going to NICU
- Feelings of powerlessness, poor communication and/or lack of support and reassurance during the delivery
- Women who have experienced a previous trauma, such as rape or sexual abuse, are also at a higher risk for experiencing postpartum PTSD.
Symptoms of postpartum PTSD might include:
- Intrusive re-experiencing of a past traumatic event (which in this case may have been the childbirth itself)
- Flashbacks or nightmares
- Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, including thoughts, feelings, people, places and details of the event
- Persistent increased arousal (irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response)
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Feeling a sense of unreality and detachment
PTSD can be frightening but is treatable with professional help. If you feel you may be suffering from PTSD related to childbirth, know that it is not your fault and you are not to blame. You can use our resource page to reach out now. We understand what you are going through and will connect you to people who understand and can help.
Content provided by Postpartum Support International.
The following organizations provide resources and information about postpartum PTSD:
- PATTCh (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth) is a collective of birth and mental health experts dedicated to the prevention and treatment of traumatic childbirth. PATTCh describes childbirth trauma as “if the woman was or believed she or her baby was in danger of injury or death, and she felt helpless, out of control, or alone, and can occur at any point in labor and birth.” PATTCh’s website includes several articles and studies about PTSD following pregnancy.
- Solace for Mothers provides and creates support for women who have experienced childbirth as traumatic. Solace for Mothers’ website provides articles, resources, and online communities for new moms.