According to medical records, between 3% and 6% of mothers in West Virginia and around the country develop post-traumatic stress disorder after giving birth, but may experts think the true figure is much higher. They believe that most birth-related PTSD goes undiagnosed because new mothers are reluctant to ask for help and feel pressured to appear grateful and joyous. When mothers are treated for psychological trauma after giving birth, it is often because there was a medical emergency and their babies suffered injuries.
Mothers who experience birth trauma find the transition to parenthood extremely difficult. They may feel disconnected from their babies, their partners and their families, and their traumatic experiences often consume their waking thoughts and haunt their dreams. Birth trauma can lead to fears that something possibly even worse could happen, which can make new mothers hypervigilant and prone to bouts of anxiety, panic and depression.
Treating birth-related PTSD
Birth-related PTSD experienced by mothers who have witnessed birth injuries can be treated with exposure therapy that encourages them to confront and face fear and cognitive behavioral therapy that focuses on changing thinking and patterns of behavior. Sharing traumatic birth experiences in a parenting group can also help new mothers to come to terms with what happened to them and their babies.
When babies are injured during childbirth, medical professionals devote most of their efforts to treating the injury and preventing further harm. This is what should be done, but it often leaves new mothers feeling abandoned and in a state of shock. When birth-related PTSD is not identified and treated, new mothers can find themselves trapped in an endless cycle of hypervigilance and disconnection. Birth-related PTSD can be treated with exposure and cognitive behavioral treatments, but sharing traumatic birth experiences with new mothers who have lived through similar emergencies could be even more helpful.