Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Still feeling BLUE after bad birth experience ? There's help !

Many women today find themselves in a difficult emotional place, even for months after the physical effects of pregnancy, labor and birth are over. They may be afraid to talk with anyone about it. They may even question their own feelings. They may look at their baby and say to themselves" I have a beautiful, healthy baby. So why am I so sad?" Their friends and family may wonder the same thing. They may say" Why are you so down ? At least you have a healthy baby." Unfortunately, these comments, well meaning as they are, only compound the complexities of the mother's emotions and ability to talk about them. 

Some women actually experience symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PSTD) after a birth experience that she perceived as threatening. 

When should a woman suspect that she has a trauma-based postpartum mood disorder as opposed to postpartum depression? When she:

• experienced an event perceived by her to be traumatic
• experiences flashbacks of the event, with vivid & sudden memories
• has nightmares of the event
• finds an inability to recall an important aspect of the event
• has an exaggerated startle response, constantly living “on edge”
• finds hyper-arousal, always being “on guard,” won’t go away
• is hypervigilant, constantly looking around for trouble or stressors
• notices herself avoiding all reminders of the traumatic event
• experiences intense psychological stress at exposure to events that resemble or remind her of the trauma
• has physiological reactivity on exposure to events resembling the traumatic event, such as panic attacks, sweating, palpitations
• is plagued by fantasies of retaliation
• finds herself to be uncharacteristically experiencing cynicism and distrust of authority figures and public institutions
• may be hypersensitive to injustice

When PTSD goes untreated or persists, one or more of the following cover-up symptoms may develop:
• Alcohol and drug abuse
• Eating disorders: bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, compulsive eating
• Compulsive gambling or compulsive spending
• Psychosomatic problems (body symptoms of an emotional origin)
• Homicidal, suicidal behavior
• Inflicting injury to herself
• Phobias
• Panic disorders
• Depression or depressive symptoms
• Dissociation symptoms
• Fainting spells

In the last few years, a couple of efforts have srung up to help women identify, validate and heal from these negative feelings. 

One of them is SOLACE for Mothers
Check them out if you think you might need help.  

Another resouce is International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN)
They may have a local chapter near you.


  1. Thanks so much for bringing awareness to this issue, Kathryn.

    I wanted to offer another resource for those affected after a bad birth. I am co-founder of, an organisation begun in 2002 by myself and my sister-in-law, (who is a midwife & Childbirth Educator), after I could find little support after my own traumatic birth. offers information & support regarding Birth Trauma, Birth Grief and Birth Disappointment.

    We have articles about understanding and moving on from a bad birth, FAQ about Healing a Bad Birth, and lots of personal stories of healing and hope. We have an IRL support group in Brisbane, Australia called "Healing From Birth" and our Facebook group consists of women from all over Australia and internationally.

    We also offer Antenatal Education to empower women and couples towards a better subsequent birth...and there are some beautiful stories & photos of their births on our website as well.

    So, thanks for bringing this issue to light, and we invite you to check out

    Best Wishes,
    Melissa Bruijn
    Makes Birth BtterTM

  2. Thank you, Melissa, for your work and for the information on Birthtalk !