Can a Bad Birth Experience Cause PTSD?

by | Dec 30, 2019 | Birth Injury

Many mothers remember the birth of their baby as one of the happiest moments in their life, but it’s often much more difficult in the moment. There’s no doubt that giving birth is a traumatic experience for most mothers. Even deliveries that have no complications are very difficult for women to go through. While all deliveries can put mothers through a significant amount of pain, some are especially bad. After some births, mothers may develop post-traumatic stress disorder from their experience. Even a normal  birth that may not have been traumatic can leave the mother with PTSD. 

Difference Between Postpartum Depression and PTSD

Over the past few decades, people have become much more aware of the challenges that new mothers face. Among some psychological issues that can come from giving birth are postpartum depression and PTSD. Many are educated on the effects of postpartum depression, however, PTSD after giving birth is not as widely talked about as postpartum depression. Some symptoms of PTSD may even be confused with postpartum depression. It’s important to be aware of the differences between the two to be able to get the proper treatment. 

Postpartum depression

 In the first two weeks after having a baby, it’s normal for mothers to feel slightly off due to hormonal changes, but in some cases, it’s much more than a brief period of sadness. While dealing with the physical changes and learning to live with a new baby, some women also experience postpartum depression. A common symptom of postpartum depression is difficulty bonding with a baby. Mothers with postpartum depression may avoid their baby and can even have fears of hurting them. 

Some other symptoms of postpartum depression include: 

  • Feeling hopeless or sad
  • Crying often
  • Loss of sleep over oversleeping
  • Loss of appetite or overeating 
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of interest in doing their favorite activities
  • Anxiety
  • Fear that they aren’t a good mother

Postpartum PTSD

Unlike postpartum depression, which can be naturally brought on by hormonal issues, PTSD is caused by what a mother went through during delivery. Almost everyone is familiar with PTSD and how it may come about, but it isn’t typically associated with medical procedures or medical emergencies. Like any traumatic experience, giving birth can put mothers at risk of developing PTSD.  

Mothers aren’t the only ones who can have PTSD after a baby is born. People who have witnessed something traumatic occur, although it might not be happening to them, are also at risk of getting PTSD. In some cases, the other parent witnessing the birth can also get it. 

Some of the symptoms of postpartum PTSD include: 

  • Flashbacks or nightmares of the delivery
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling emotionally detached from their baby
  • Irritability 
  • Anxiety

What Causes PTSD in Mothers?

There is no one exact cause that can lead to a mother getting PTSD. This may seem like it would only occur from complicated pregnancies and deliveries, but any parent can get PTSD from their delivery experience, even if there were no major issues. During childbirth, mothers often feel helpless and need to rely heavily on medical professionals, which can lead to emotional trauma. This can also happen if they feel they aren’t being listened to or if they don’t have enough support during delivery. Additionally, not every parent who goes through a complicated delivery will get PTSD from their experience. 

It’s common for mothers to have certain expectations before they have a baby. They’ve likely had a specific plan in mind for the delivery of their baby and expect that their child will be healthy and delivered safely. However, if complications arise or something happens that requires immediate care, mothers may be subjected to a delivery experience they hadn’t prepared themselves for. Births that risk the health of the baby or mother or ones that cause additional pain can cause PTSD in mothers. PTSD can also occur after the delivery if the baby develops health problems. Having a baby who needs to stay in the NICU or has difficulties breastfeeding can also lead to PTSD. 

How is PTSD Treated?

It’s important for new parents to reach out for help if they experience difficulties after their baby is born. Those around them should also be aware of the signs of psychological issues like PTSD that can occur after the birth of a baby, as many parents have trouble admitting they need help. Treatment for postpartum PTSD is not unlike treatment for PTSD when it’s caused by other factors. 

There are a few different ways for new mothers dealing with PTSD to get treatment. Therapy is a common way of helping mothers recover. In some cases, they may also be prescribed medication to help them handle their PTSD. Some alternative forms of treatment are also available, such as acupuncture. If a bad birth experience was caused by medical negligence, families should speak to a birth injury lawyer to help them recover.

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