Women really do suffer traumatic birth experiences, I should know, I have been listening to womens birth stories for over 35 years. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is real following many mothers births. It cost the NHS lots of money in terms of mothers requesting planned Caesarean sections IF they decide to have another baby, due to fear of giving birth again, in terms of mental health resources for all the care they may need postnatally and post natal illness, their mental health and well being, often years down the line, and its not fair!
As a Hypnobirthing teacher (and also as a practising midwife, and previously as a doula) I have spoken to or met many women, who have or are suffering tocophobia ,a pathological fear of childbirth, primary tocophobia if it is their first baby, secondary tocophobia, if it is due to a previous traumatic birth. The conversation often goes like this….”I’m not really sure if I want to do Hypnobirthing even though it really helped my friend….because I may be having a caesarean….” ( I do work with women who are having a planned CS, using Hypnobirthing too, by the way)
Often it transpires that this poor woman is terrified of giving birth, she wants the much loved baby, but not the birth….and as we chat, I suggest that whilst a CS is of course an option (or a repeat CS), as women should be given choices, I also suggest that they take another look..would they be making a decision based on fear alone? And often they are…..we explore options and usually they commit to Hypnobirthing, which involves deep relaxations, birth preparation, and as important, work on letting go of fears. We work on aiming for a postive birth experience, with tools and techniques along the way to help them feel confident and calm, whatever the situatiin or however the birth unfolds. I have worked with so many mothers like this, who often end up having water births in hospitals or birth centres, and many who birth at home! Once they feel informed, empowered and as prepared as you can be when giving birth….they move a long way from the first chat.
In todays medical model of birth, where mothers often feel “out of control”, disempowered and not aware of their options, not to mention their birth partners, who are also often traumatised….is it any wonder there is trauma and fear!
Having a baby should be such a precious time in a mothers/ couples lives, a time of joy and celebration, not of anger, trauma and negativity.
So how can we prepare mothers and their partners for their birth experience? In some ways we are reinventing the wheel, going back to basics of nurturing and supporting mothers with things like Hypnobirthing, Birth Doulas and thankfully many midwives, doctors and supoort workers, who struggle against adversity in an under resourced and often over stretched system.
Many years ago, most women had ten or more babies, predominantly born at home, older children saw their many siblings born into their home, without much thought and probably without any fears. The current culture if childbirth needs to change massively! Society has programmed women and their birth partners to be fearful of birth, birth dicumentaries and soap operas fuel this fear, as childbirh is portrayed as horrendous and feeds the fears! Fear creates tension and tension creates pain, or more pain, the physiological fight or flight response that kicks in when we dont feel safe and secure but rather that we feel in danger or frightened.
Lets get back to birthing basics, creating the optimal environment for mothers hormones to flow, have everyone at the birth filled with respect and flowing with Oxyticin….however and wherever the mother gives birth, with or without intervention ❤️