As birth doulas, we will eventually serve families with many varying needs. Pregnancy after birth trauma can be quite challenging, especially as one begins to prepare for birth. As a doula, it is important you understand how to support these clients.
With some sources citing up to 1 in 3 birthers experiencing birth trauma, you need to be prepared. Our comprehensive birth doula certification will ensure you have the tools needed to support all clients. However, as a doula, it important to continue your education. One way to do so is through reading, workshops, and more.
What is Birth Trauma?
Birth trauma is distress experienced by a birthing person during or immediately after birth. This trauma can be physical, but it is often emotional and psychological.
While there are births it seems obvious why a person experienced distress, (e.g., a medical emergency occurring), birth trauma is often multifaceted. Being that birth is a very vulnerable time with intense physiological things happening, it is not difficult to understand how trauma can occur.
At times, a physical trauma leads to emotional and psychological trauma. However, many times birth unfolds well from a physical standpoint but there are circumstances around the birth which leads to trauma.
For example, perhaps a birthing parent feels as if their provider simply did things to them without obtaining consent. They felt out of control and did not have bodily autonomy. Through the birth they did not feel heard or supported. Maybe they were not fully aware of what to expect or feel during the birthing process, coupled with a lack of autonomy, they felt completely out of control during an intense and vulnerable time.
Baby was born healthy. The birther did not experience any severe tearing, bleeding, or complications. On paper, everything was great. However, despite everything being ‘fine’, it is a traumatic experience. When broken down above, as a doula, it makes sense to most of us why she had trauma. However, without breaking it down, it may not be obvious to everyone. Which for the birther, can lead to more trauma as she feels misunderstood and even guilty.
Pregnancy After Birth Trauma – Big Feelings
As doulas, we are not licensed therapist and we cannot assess or diagnose for trauma, PTSD, etc. However, we can be cognizant of potential birth trauma if a client shares their story. We may also have clients who have worked with professionals or are aware they have experienced trauma.
We should not ever tell a client they have trauma when we hear a birth story because it is very possible, they did not experience something as a trauma. However, when a client mentions trauma, or their experience, we should always validate their feelings and hold space for them.
Experiencing a pregnancy after a difficult birth, especially after experiencing birth trauma, can be both exciting and terrifying. Some parents can focus on the possibility of an upcoming positive birth. They might take all the steps they think can help, such as choosing a different provider, birth location, and hiring a doula.
Other parents have difficulty not focusing on the previous trauma and expect another difficult birth. We cannot guarantee any birth outcomes as doulas. However, we can provide them with continuous support, prenatal education, and reassurance. We can also provide referrals to community resources, such as mental health providers specializing in the reproductive years.
As doulas, our role here is to simply be aware of the big feelings they might have. We should also make sure they understand our role. We cannot guarantee outcomes, but we can guarantee support. We can also provide them with educational resources they may request, such as childbirth classes, books, etc.
Giving Birth After Birth Trauma
It will be very important to reassure your client of your support during the birth experience. Helping your client to find their voice, understand what is happening, and reassure them that every birth is unique can be extremely helpful.
During birth, your client is likely to benefit from truly continuous support and communication with their birthing team. You can remind their partner, if applicable, to continue to be their voice should the birthing person be unable to speak up.
Lots of reassurance, support, and reminders can be extremely beneficial. It is also important to hold space and allow them to process their feelings. Allow your client to take the lead, but also consider the ‘take charge’ routine where you strongly suggest a variety of comfort techniques should they be struggling.
Not feeling equipped to support a client pregnant after a birth trauma? Be sure to register for training today!