Birth trauma frequently asked questions

What is birth trauma?

Birth trauma is any physical or emotional distress you may experience during or after childbirth. During the birth, you may feel afraid, helpless or unsupported by those around you. After the birth, you may be left feeling guilty or numb due to events beyond your control. You could even suffer from panic attacks. If this happens, know that you’re not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 45 percent of new moms experience birth trauma—and the effects can continue long after the birth itself.

What are the risk factors for birth trauma?

There are many factors that can contribute to birth trauma, including:

  • A childbirth experience that was not what you hoped
  • Birth complications, including a vaginal tear or too much bleeding
  • Emergency Cesarean birth or the use of forceps or other medical devices
  • You or your baby suffering a birth injury
  • Your baby requiring medical attention after the birth
  • Not receiving the care or support you expected from the hospital staff

How can birth trauma affect my life?

The myth persists that having a baby is supposed to be a natural, joyous event, so you might find it hard to come to terms with a childbirth experience that wasn’t what you expected. You might be ashamed of your feelings or even fearful of being judged, so you bury your emotions in the hope they’ll go away.

But unresolved trauma doesn’t simply go away. It’s important to examine your feelings to understand why you feel the way you do. Otherwise, these negative emotions can simmer under the surface, affecting your everyday life in big and small ways, including:

  • Drinking or eating excessively
  • Spending money
  • Lashing out or withdrawing
  • Self-esteem and relationship issues
  • Feelings of anxiety or stress

What should I do if I think I’m suffering from birth trauma?

If you think you’re suffering from birth trauma, consult your doctor or a certified therapist as soon as possible. You can also find additional postpartum resources and support here.

What is birth story healing?

When you go through a traumatic birth experience, the emotional scars can stay with you forever. One of the ways you can heal from birth trauma is to share your story and hear the stories of other parents in return. And it’s not just difficult stories that help in the healing process. Positive birth stories are just as important in helping you overcome any trauma you may have gone through.

What are the benefits of sharing my birth story?

Sharing your birth story can help you view the experience in a new light and show you’re not alone by:

  • Helping you reframe your experience and give it new meaning
  • Building back your confidence to break the trauma’s hold
  • Allowing you to engage and connect with other parents
  • Giving you back your identity and sense of self

How can I share my birth story?

You can share your story with other parents on our website here: Share Your Story.