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Perinatal trauma

Perinatal trauma – how to deal with it?

Each of the women planning a child also thinks about this, often the most difficult moment at the end of the waiting period – childbirth. A sense of security, belief in the best willingness and competence of people helping you through this period, is key.

Among animals, a sense of danger – stress – can cause labour to stop until a safe haven is found, and so, for example, an antelope fleeing from a predator can delay labour for up to several hours until it is in a safe place.

Women also give birth longer due to stress. Adrenaline inhibits all physiological mechanisms, limiting itself to the most essential – fighting or escaping from danger. High levels of adrenaline cause oxytocin levels to drop. Excessive adrenaline levels in the first stage of labour may interrupt contractions. ( Since the 1950s, obstetricians and psychologists have been wondering how to help a woman in this demanding period. For this purpose, a lot of research was carried out and newer and newer facilities were introduced for the expectant mother and child to come – the harsh hospital room was replaced by a pleasant room with a mattress, rubber ball and shower; lighting has been changed to more natural, etc.

What, however, when the mere equipment of the delivery rooms does not protect against experiencing the trauma? What situations most often affect the occurrence of perinatal trauma?

Most often, perinatal trauma occurs in women experiencing long and painful labour with complications.

According to statistics, the most common causes of perinatal trauma are:

  • inadequate pain relief measures,
  • perinatal haemorrhage,
  • stopping the labour,
  • the need for an earlier caesarean section,
  • lack of support from the partner,
  • improper attitude of medical personnel,
  • the fear of a woman in labour of the death of her child,
  • bad experiences from a previous birth.

In Poland, the subject of perinatal trauma is not paid much attention, and according to statistics, about 6% of mothers experience it.

Often, trauma in fresh mothers is confused with postpartum depression, but in the case of trauma, negative emotions are mainly associated with the birth itself. A diagnosis of a trauma can only be made when the symptoms are present more than a month after the birth.

What are the symptoms of trauma?

Symptoms are very individual, depending on the very background of the trauma, but the key and alarming ones are:

  • sleep disturbances,
  • nightmares related to childbirth,
  • fear of the next pregnancy,
  • reliving the birth in recurring memories,
  • poor contact with the child,
  • disconnection from other people and the outside world

How to deal with trauma?

In order to avoid trauma, we should try as much as possible to prepare for childbirth, gather all possible information and learn how to react in critical situations, and this is where the institution of a birthing school comes in handy for parents-to-be. It is worth taking advantage of the knowledge of independent midwives and co-participants who have already had various perinatal experiences behind them. If, on the other hand, the trauma has already occurred – do not hesitate to seek the help of a specialist who will help you enjoy motherhood.


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