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Giving birth is one epic journey and like most things pregnancy related, it is very personal with no two women’s experiences exactly the same.

But according to recent research, while their experiences may not have been identical, many women do have similar feelings after a birth in which their own or their baby’s life was threatened.

In some cases, these feelings can taint the entire experience of motherhood and be felt for years after leaving hospital.

According to the research, the most common feelings during the experience and immediately after are:

  • Fear – You may have experienced fearing for your life or your baby’s life and would describe it as “shocking”, ”frightening” or “horrifying”. For some, this fear was intensified by seeing fear on health professionals’ faces.
  • Worry for family – Feeling near to death, you worried about leaving your baby and other children behind and how your family would cope.
  • Anger – You may feel a sense of anger toward your own body for “letting you down” and robbing you of a great pregnancy and birthing experience. Anger may also be felt toward health professionals if you understand there was a delay in diagnosis of a condition or that during the emergency you were isolated, ignored, treated inadequately, impersonally or unequally, or not listened to.
  • Guilt – You may have experienced guilt believing the trauma to be your fault. It is also very common to feel guilty when there is a prolonged separation from your baby or you felt more concerned for your own health than your baby’s in the initial aftermath.
  • Loss – Loss is experienced on a number of fronts. Commonly there is a feeling of loss of control in general, over your body, over medical decisions, and over a life event. You may also have felt a loss of ‘normality’ and replaced it with a sense of failure and ‘incompetence or incapability of performing the physical process of reproduction’.

Many women also continue to experience negative consequences well beyond the first few months.



The most common ongoing effects include:

  • Seeking a cause and ruminating – It is very common to want to find a reason for why such a terrible event has happened. As such, you may blame yourself or health care professionals, or hold onto a general sense of unfairness or injustice if no obvious cause can be found. It is common to continuously think over and over about how things could have been different in any of these scenarios.
  • Post-traumatic stress symptoms – You may relive your experience in the form of flashbacks or nightmares. You might avoid hospitals, doctors, or even other pregnant women as they remind you of your experience. These symptoms may have only appeared 1-6 months after the birth as the initial joy of baby’s arrival slowed down and you had more time alone to reflect.
  • Difficulty bonding with baby – You may have experienced a separation from your baby due to your own medical treatment. Care may have been given by a family member which hindered your ability to establish breastfeeding and develop a close relationship with your baby creating a sense of failure as a mother.

It is important to understand that all of these feelings are extremely common and a natural reaction to being in a very scary situation with little to no control.

It is equally important to note that you can seek help if working through them on your own is difficult.

There are special supports available where you can speak safely and openly about what has happened and work on healing in the best way for you.

While many women feel the same way, everyone has their own unique story to work through and find different coping mechanisms helpful.

As a starting point, I recommend you contact PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association) on 1300 726 306. They can discuss your situation with you and refer you to specialists in your area if necessary. You can also visit the COPE (Centre of Perinatal Excellence) website for further information on birth trauma and resources.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com
  • It is so important to get help and support in times like this.

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  • I think all births are traumas to sone extent or another. There is a great deal of pain after all. It’s just some births are less or more traumatic then others

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  • I have relatives who have had PND and definitely think that I will need to talk to my doctor and the early childhood nurses at my community health centre to ensure I’m okay after the baby’s birth. It’s important to keep lines of communication open to get help as soon as possible and I definitely want to ensure that.

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  • great to read

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  • I had quite a traumatic “natural” birth with my first child which ended up with me in surgery and a much longer healing process than a Cesarean. As a result of these injuries and the surgery I ended up suffering Anxiety. When I fell pregnant with my second child I struggled to get excited about it as I keep stressing about the birth even when I was only newly pregnant. My prior experience definitely took away from my enjoying the pregnancy and I started to stress quite a lot. I have since undergone hypnotherapy to assist with my Anxiety and have been able to lead a lot more of a “normal” life since undergoing the Hypnotherapy. To any mum suffering from Anxiety I can not recommend it highly enough.

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  • Sad to read some of the members traumatic experiences. Thanks mouth of mums for allowing us to share our experiences

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  • It is heart-breaking to read so many new Mums experiencing terrible births. I too had a birthing experience that was not expected at the time. I was fortunate enough to have an ‘easy’ pregnancy where I was able to continue working and did not suffer from morning sickness or any complications. So, when it all went wrong in the delivery room, it threw a massive spanner in the works. My labour was 22 hours in total from my first contraction until my son arrived, with my waters breaking the day before (but we were sent home to wait until labour had officially started). My contractions stopped on the way to the hospital and so I was given the inducing drug which I was overly sensitive to and caused a contraction that lasted over 3 mins. I was planning a drug free birth, but after contractions that were coming thick and fast due to the drugs, I had to have the epidural. When it was time to push, I was pushing for almost 2 hours before they decided to get a doctor to see what was wrong. The midwife at the time accused me of not pushing hard enough… my husband took her outside for some choice words! Not what you say to a distraught person! It was found that my son had flipped at some point and was OP which was causing the extra pain and difficulty giving birth. After trying the forceps which resulted in my sons heart-rate dropping to dangerous levels, I was rushed in for an emergency c-section. Not only was this my first admission to hospital, but it was also my first surgery. They got us into the operating room and were giving me the top up drugs to numb the area to do the c-section. After they had given me the maximum dose of drugs, I could still feel the cold pack on my stomach, so I had to have a full general. This resulted in both myself and my husband missing the birth of our first (and only) child as he could not be in the room due to it being under normal operating conditions. I woke 2 hours later drugged up, exhausted and in pain. The trauma resulted in me not being able to breastfeed my son or bond with him properly for the first few weeks.
    It was a comment that a midwife said to me the next day that helped me through it… she said whilst you went through a traumatic experience, you have a beautiful son to take home. Some women go through this and go home empty. It put it all in perspective, although it is still hard to get over the emotional stress of it all. I suffered for a long time afterwards, but it does get better. xx

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  • My toughest birth experience was with baby number 2 but still it was nothing compared to some woman so although it was my toughest it wasnt really bad in the grand scheme of things.

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  • My son got stuck and i knew something was wrong, my mum and midwife kept calm And said everything thing was fine. i was like yeh right and pushed as hard as I could. And everything was fine then. Found out after he was going purple and midwife was about to break his shoulder to get him out. No trauma though, but I’m lucky I knew they were faking it or it could have gone wrong. Would have preferred honesty.

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  • My only anger is directed at the medical staff, they treat you like an idiot, they don’t tell you what’s going on, they took my husband out of the room and explained it to him, but I just got the pat on the head like I was a child, perhaps if they had treated me like like an intelligent 39yr old, it wouldn’t have been so traumatic, I found it the most humiliating experience both times, we wanted a third but a I can’t go through that again.

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  • I can only think of relief and joy in labor, hugs to those who are traumatised by it

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  • I can absolutely relate to this post. It’s the reason why I only had one child. I endured 2 and a 1/2 years of IVF for a successful pregnancy, to then experience 9 months of illness (as per Kate Middleton), endured a traumatic birth having needed gas, pethidine, and epidural (that went wrong), followed by emergency rectification /spinal patch the week later when I was leaving hospital that took away my ability to breastfeed, bathe my baby, bond, etc. I had to transfer to bottle feeding, my husband had to take over mothering when we returned home, and I had to and re-learn everything Our first year at home was horrendous with our son experiencing colic and requiring medication every fortnight that had to be purchased at RCH, a 45 minute drive away. My husband and I both suffered Post Natal Depression. It took me, I think, until my son’s first birthday for me to think that it might be all right and that I loved him as I should. I always felt robbed of what I thought to be the ideal experience of pregnancy and birth and motherhood and wanted to try again… but based on all of the above my husband and I agreed not to.


    • So sorry to hear your story. You are very brave.

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  • Wow. Reading this i can see how it applies to people I know. I just hope i dont have that kind of experience

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  • One of my school friends moved to the country after she got married. Druing the last stage of her first pregnancy she developed Toxaemia. When she had the baby she was so swollen in her face that when her parents saw her they didn’t recognise her and she was very ill. The baby was full term but was so sick they rushed it to the Childrens’ Hospital. He had absorbed so much of the toxins from his Mum that they weren’t able to save him.
    A few weeks later another friend of mine suffered bladder and other damage when she had her 1st baby, had to have extensive surgery and was unable to have any more.
    Within a month of those 2 traumatic births, a distant relative of mine had a stillbirth because there was no aenethitist in the country town they we living in to do a C-section. At her check-up only a day before she wasn’t advised that the cord appeared to be around the baby’s neck. Had she been flown to the city where she could have a c-section beofre she actually went into labour the baby would probably been Ok. She was perfectly formed.


    • All horrific stories. So sorry for all involved.

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  • I was very lucky with my actual births but unlucky during my second pregnancy where the complications caused issues for a year after. I questioned if I initially bonded as well with number two. People tell me that bonding is different with each child but I feel that I will never know. I have to move on and love each moment.

    Reply

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