Birth Trauma

Any type of real or perceived threat to the well-being of the baby or to the birthing person may be a cause of birth trauma. 

You don’t have to have had a “dramatic” or “worst-case” scenario to have suffered a traumatic birth experience.   Birth trauma does not have to be what a clinician would define as traumatic; in fact, many births that a doctor or midwife perceive as “fine” are ones that the birthing people themselves experience as upsetting.

Perhaps you thought you’d like birth and, well, you did not.  At.  All.  In fact, you think of your experience as one of the worst things ever. You knew it would be hard, but it was so much harder than you’d ever imagined. You feel that people lied to you; didn’t prepare you adequately.  Or maybe you’re jealous of others who had much easier births.

The negativity of the experience obsesses you and you are uncomfortable with how you feel about it.  You may be left with lingering birth-related injuries or health problems.  The difficulty of the experience may have even affected your bond with your baby or your relationship with your partner. 

If any of the above describes you, it’s possible you are suffering some degree of birth trauma.   It’s also possible your partner is suffering from birth trauma, too.

Common Causes of Birth Trauma

The potential list of causes is long as it is the person going through birth who decides what was traumatic.  A partial list of broad categories of birth trauma include:

    ·      medical complications during labor and delivery for either the birthing person or baby

    ·      postpartum complications (including feeding, tears and stitches, hemorrhages, infections)

          ·      poor communication with your support person or your provider(s)

          ·      lack of informed consent

          ·      birth that fails to meet patient’s expectations for any reason

          ·      Feeling disregarded or not listened to, even if you and the baby are physically “fine,”

          ·      Any health problem that results from a birth, for baby or person giving birth

          ·      Stillbirth


Does Birth Trauma Cause Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

It can and sometimes does.  Occasionally people who are suffering from birth trauma are misdiagnosed as depressed.  Yet the techniques for helping people with depression differ from the therapies helpful for trauma, so being correctly identified as traumatized OR depressed (or traumatized AND depressed) is important.


Even if you do not have a case of PTSD (which would have to be determined by a clinician), you may still find it hard to process or “get over” the birth trauma without support.  

People who have experienced birth trauma of any severity or any kind may benefit from therapy, from support groups, and from one-on-one peer support from others who have had similar birth experiences.

Symptoms of postpartum PTSD might include:

       ·      Intrusive re-experiencing of a past traumatic event (Possibly the childbirth itself·      Flashbacks or nightmares

       ·      Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, including thoughts, feelings, people, places and details of the event

       ·      Irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response

       ·      Anxiety and panic attacks

       ·      Feeling a sense of unreality and detachment


Need help. 

WellMama is here to help you if you’ve experienced any type of birth trauma. To receive individual peer support around this topic, please email Elaine at


Or Text SUPPORT to 541-525-0495


Also, to see if any of our postpartum groups would be a good for you, click HERE. 


Coming soon: 

Birth Trauma Workshop – What to know before you give birth