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Healing After a Traumatic Birth: a Guide for Mothers

October 4, 2019

Most parents remember the birth of their baby as a most joyous experience. It is the end of nine months of preparation, anticipation, and eagerly waiting. Becoming a parent is a festive celebration. But what happens when the birth of your child does not go exactly as expected?

Traumatic births are surprisingly common in the United States and can forever change the first moments of motherhood.  When a mother undergoes a labor with complications and her baby is removed limp, lifeless, and blue, instead of the first glimpse bliss, a fear permeates the room amongst the flurry of activity to resuscitate the child. It is a nightmare no parent wishes to endure, yet a staggering 25 to 34% of women report traumatic births, according to the Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Birth.

For those who undergo a traumatic experience during birth, including emergency procedures, life-threatening moments, and/or negligent healthcare providers, the results can be devastating. Fear of injury to the child, alongside the psychological and physical pain from the traumatic experience leads many mothers to postpartum feelings of extreme helplessness, lack of care, fear, and anxiety. Fortunately, if you have had a troubling, difficult, or traumatic birth, there are some positive steps you can take and there are many resources to help you piece together what happened.

Process your experience

If you experienced a traumatic birth, contact a support organization to talk to someone who can validate your feelings and help you come to terms with your experience. An excellent organization dedicated to expanding awareness and advancing knowledge about traumatic birth  is PAATCh (Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Childbirth).  PAATCH has a main goal of providing education and resources for treatment after a traumatic birth.

Peer support or professional therapy can also be helpful. Another way some process to heal is through writing.  Writing in a journal can be therapeutic, and can help a woman understand she is not imagining this effect.

Make a conscious effort to forgive yourself

Many women place the blame on themselves after a traumatic birth. Some women feel like they somehow failed. “If only I had been stronger…” “If only I had checked out the doctor/hospital more carefully….” “If only I had spoken up to the doctor or nurse when there were signs of trouble…” Recognize that you did the best you could under the circumstances and with the knowledge you had at the time, and seek a professional to review what happened and reassure you there is nothing you could have done differently and to evaluate whether there is a responsible party for the traumatic birth.

Learn as much as you can about your experience and contact experts

Get copies of your medical records and the records of your newborn. Talk with a professional who can help you understand the events that occurred during your birth. The only way to determine if the traumatic birth and resulting injury was avoidable is to have prenatal, delivery, and newborn medical care attentively reviewed by qualified professionals who understand the complex physiology of mother and fetus during gestation, stresses the baby undergoes during the birth, mechanisms to cope with the stresses, adjusting the newborn to life outside of the womb, and requirements and responses to stresses and factors in the environment.

The Buchanan Firm has a combined legal-medical team with decades of experience handling birth trauma cases. We have experienced Michigan birth injury attorneys on staff to talk with you right away about what happened. We quickly and efficiently assess the medical facts to determine if the trauma was avoidable. And, if we find malpractice caused injury, we will take the wrongdoer to court to secure fair and just compensation for the injury.