Community Midwifery Services | Birth Trauma Part 2
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Birth Trauma Part 2

The Australasian Birth Trauma Association

Is a not for profit organisation established in 2016 to support women and their families who are suffering in the postnatal period from physical and/ or psychological trauma resulting from the birth process.


“We seek to assist women through their own journey after a traumatic birth by providing them with the information, resources, and support required to manage their symptoms while raising a family, participating in the workforce and being active in their community.”


Amy Dawes (Director of ABTA)


“We need to break the taboo over talking about birth trauma and challenge the myth that all that matters is a healthy baby”

The Baby

Dr Emma Svanberg
Perinatal Psychologist UK


Difficult Beginnings: from the Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 (AIMH UK.)


How a traumatic or difficult birth may impact the baby and parent-infant relationship.


“Birth trauma can impact on developing a relationship with your baby not just because of the symptoms it can lead to, such as symptoms of feeling under threat, reliving the experience and feeling your mood has been affected.

It can also impact because, as many women have said, they were left with a sense of disappointment about missing out on these first moments, as well as guilt about this being the start of your journey together.


For the baby too, a traumatic birth can lead to an unsettled start outside the womb, this can lead to a vicious cycle developing with a stressed baby and a stressed mum, and possibly a stressed partner too. You might feel your baby cries a lot, or finds their cries really hard to hear. Or you might feel very protective of your baby and worry about them a lot. “


She continues…


“Often, looking at the impact of birth can be the first step in reversing the cycle and learning ways to reduce that stress response for both you and your baby.


It can feel so hard to consider that birth maybe having an impact on both of you, but with some support it is possible to feel better, that difficult beginning can still blossom into something beautiful.

Dr Emma Svanberg.


Fathers have their own unique set of symptoms, and can experience trauma, anxiety and/or depression, just like their female counterparts.]


The parenting role for Fathers has also changed over the last decade, with more hands on care and support being expected from them, as well as the “bread winner role”, and much more: requiring them to have an emotional “groundedness.”


They are now being expected to keep the whole family unit together, especially if their wife is physically or mentally unwell.

For some fathers this is possible by digging deep and doing what’s needed, but only if they are emotionally secure in who they are, and had good parenting role models themselves. If not,



” signs that men maybe struggling can include becoming withdrawn, immersing themselves in work, or substance abuse.


Alternatively, men with anxiety and depression may ‘feel wound up”, frustrated, or unable to relax- a feeling sometimes described as “like being trapped, or pacing in a cage.”


They can have outburst of anger or rage that are “not in character”, leading to feelings of shame or guilt. We know many men also are expected to be “the rock” and hold their family together, and many tell us it is hard to talk about their feelings, or difficulties they might be coping with, when their partner has done the hard job of carrying and delivering the baby’.

Dr Bronwyn Leigh
Perinatal Psychologist and Director, Centre for Perinatal Psychology.


Explains that “the perinatal stages are unique and developmentally rich life-phases for both parents and infants, with the needs of all family members needing to be considered, nurtured and supported.


It is a vulnerable time for adults as they are faced with the complex psychological task of becoming a mother or father. This transition requires psychological reorganisation of one’s internal and external worlds, a shifting of identity to one of mother/ father and creating a space for baby to come to life.”

Pathways to Healing: from Birth Trauma to Post Traumatic Growth.


  • Once you are pregnant start thinking about not only care of your physical body, but your emotional and psychological body. Remember certain memories are deep-seated and stay in our physical body and unconscious memory for a long time.
  • Have you experienced any traumatic event in the past?
  • Have you experienced any form of abuse in the past, be it physical or emotional, childhood abuse, or domestic violence?
  • Did your parents or grandparents witness a traumatic event or suffer from abuse of any kind? Remember trauma can be trans-generational, and without realising it, can be passed on.
  • Have you lost a parent, particularly your mother or close relative, or had a previous stillbirth or pregnancy loss?
  • Have you experienced a previous traumatic birth or medical event which left you feeling distressed or disturbed by the experience, that you still get flash backs or memories of the event in certain situations?


You are NOT ALONE, please don’t think that this is just in your mind, and ignore how you are feeling, especially if it has left a WOUND which refuses to heal.


Get help, in whatever way you can.


Who do you feel most comfortable with from a practitioner perspective?
You need to choose someone who you know will listen and take you seriously.
Don’t get put off, if the first person you try does not really understand.


Your GP, MCHN, CONTINUITY OF CARE MIDWIFE, PHYSIO, PSYCHOLOGIST (PERINATAL), all have knowledge of Birth Trauma, but if in doubt, choose an organisation below who specialise in this support.


They will point you in the right direction, listen to your story, and validate how
you are feeling.


PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (



This is an organisation focused exclusively on advancing the needs of the estimated 4-5 million adults who are survivors of child abuse.


UNFOLD YOUR WINGS.CO.UK ( of birth trauma




“Our mission is to Raise Awareness of Perinatal Anxiety and Depression.”




Is Australia’s only national group of psychologists dedicated to mothers, fathers, infants, couples and families during the perinatal period.




Talk about yourself to someone you feel comfortable with and who can give you the time to listen.


Continuity of care models with a Midwife or Midwife and Obstetrician are available, seek them out.


Place of birth is another, where would you feel most comfortable? , shop around.


Prepare for the birth by doing some education that will prepare you realistically for what to expect from any scenario, not just the normal.


Sometimes labour and birth can take unexpected twists and turns, but if you are prepared for these, you can work through them and still come out on top.


If you have had trauma before, you need to put a COPING PLAN together, as well as your birth plan or wishes.


Start planning some good postnatal care and support in your pregnancy. It makes such a difference to have it all planned and available once baby arrives. You have someone to share your thoughts and answer your questions, and remind you to look after yourself too.


Self care should start now too, getting a massage or doing some yoga or reflexology, walking regularly can help to relax you and keep you calm. Remember if you are doing these things for you, you are also doing them for your baby!




If you know you are going to need support with the birth, consider having a doula or private midwife who can provide the on -going support and advocacy that you will need.


It is sometimes unrealistic to expect your partner to do this, if he has also been traumatised in the past.


On your coping plan make sure that the staff know that you have experienced distress and trauma in the past, and will require their full support when examinations and investigations are required.


Look at reframing pain and changing it to working with pain instead.


Unexpected interventions: when these occur ensure that they recognise your need for explanation before, during and after the procedure.


You need them to reinforce positive steps in progress, and role model how to remain calm and relaxed.


Remember to look at ways to reinforce your SOOTHE SYSTEM to keep fears and anxiety at bay and prevent the increase of stress hormones and “flight and fight” cycle.


The Birth Debrief

It is really important to have a Midwife or Obstetrician debrief your labour and birth.
Any trauma, or distress should be acknowledged, everyone is different, and just because it as a normal birth does not mean you didn’t experience any distress or trauma.


Book: Healing a Bad Birth – Debby Gould.
Trauma is the “eye of the beholder”

What happened?
And how did you feel?


It is normal to feel some distress, or feel traumatised after a birth because it is a
Big Physical Experience, a Huge Emotional Journey.
Therefore support and good preparation is so important.


You may need help with filling in the timelines, and it is important to ask questions while you can.


You need to be offered practical help and support if symptoms persist.


See your MCHN, she should be reviewing your birth story at 1month and 6months and 1 year and so on. It doesn’t always appear straight away, but can take time to unfold.


There are referral pathways to the appropriate professionals that can help you.
Search them out yourself by looking for your local perinatal psychologists, and then getting a referral from your GP for 10 Medicare Rebatable sessions.


Perinatal Psychologists

They help you make sense of why you are feeling this way, what the trigger was, and how to acknowledge and normalise the experience, so that you can move forward and heal.






The birth experience matters and it has consequences for not only the Mother but her baby and family too.




Remember, you can still be grateful for your baby at the same time as being upset about your birth.

Baby needs his mother to be present and available to him, for his emotional health.


Emotional health affects how we parent, therefore emotional health matters. And we need to support it.


Let someone help you to work on these feelings and emotions. Birth trauma is treatable.


Parents need to enjoy their babies and babies need to feel secure in their relationships.

Top 6 things that people with post traumatic growth say when healing has taken place:


  • My priorities have changed
  • I am not afraid to do what makes me happy
  • I feel closer to my friends and family
  • I understand myself better. I know who I really am now
  • I have a new sense of meaning and purpose in my life
  • I am better able to focus on my goals and dreams.


My hope for you is that after reading this information, you will be able to seek out the help you need, it is never too late.

Do it for yourself
Do it for your baby
Do it for your relationship
Do it for your family
Do it for your future
And, the future generations of your family to come!


Get in Touch