You might assume that only obviously horrific birth experiences can lead to birth trauma. This is not so. There are many situations with the potential to result in a traumatic experience. Even a birth that appears straightforward can lead to feelings of trauma, such as loss of volition, lack of control over the situation, feeling like you haven’t been listened to, and loss of dignity. The common causes are listed below, but this should not be seen as exhaustive:
· Fear of the baby dying, or of maternal death.
· A long and difficult labour.
· A short intense labour.
· Loss of volition – an act of making a choice or decision.
· Feeling of having lost control of their birth.
· Feeling humiliated.
· Lack of privacy or dignity.
· Pain is dismissed.
· Lack of information and feelings of not knowing what is happening to you.
· Inadequate labour and delivery care.
· Staff incompetence.
· Staff indifference.
· Inappropriate staff comments.
· Neglect – being left on their own.
· Lack of continuity of care.
· When a woman feels invisible/unheard.
· When an emergency situation arises suddenly.
· High levels of medical intervention.
· Non-consensual intervention.
· If you feel trapped and unable to escape from the situation.
· Birth of a sick or injured baby.
· Previous trauma (miscarriage, multiple failed IVF treatments, previous sexual and physical abuse, domestic violence, previous bad birth experience, previous bad experience in a hospital).
· Poor postnatal care.
It is important to remember that feelings of trauma are subjective and unique to the individual, stemming from her own experience and perception of the birth. The birth does not have to be dramatic to induce feelings of trauma.
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