A recent study talked about post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after giving birth. There was a tiny statement in the document that led a media frenzy that claimed that unmedicated births caused PTSD. This is a small study of women (102) and a total of 7 mothers had PTSD. What the study said was that 80% of mothers who developed PTSD did not have medication, 5 women of 7.
My initial thought when I saw this was I wondered if the mothers actually chose to have an unmedicated birth or were forced to have an unmedicated birth because of the lack of availability of epidurals or other medications or because their labor didn't allow for it, for whatever reason. As I've worked with women who really were traumatized by birth, those who were unmedicated did NOT choose to be unmedicated. There are reasons why an epidural can't be given. Penny Simkin spoke to this thought in a blog post on Science & Sensibility for Lamaze International.
Simkin summed up my feelings nicely, "In spite of the flaws of this study, the authors offered some valuable conclusions, pointing out 'the importance of inquiring about previous pregnancy and birthing experiences and the need to identify at-risk populations and increase awareness of the disorder.' Despite the shortcomings of their study, this advice is on target, as has been confirmed over and over again in the literature on traumatic birth."
So instead of getting into the sensationalism of these articles all over the media, let's talk about how to help mothers who have PTSD, for whatever reason, after giving birth. Other research shows that moms are more likely to have symptoms of PTSD if they experienced:
- Lack of choice for options in care
- Perceived lack of communication from medical staff
- Fear of unsafe care
- Lack of continuity in providers
Have you experienced any of these in previous experiences? Has anyone asked you about your previous pregnancy or birth experiences?
- Prevention and Treatment for Traumatic Childbirth (PATTCh)
- Natural Childbirth - Major Cause of Post-traumtic Stress Disorder?
- 7 Reasons You Can't Have an Epidural
Polachek I, Harari L H, Baum M, Strous RD, (2012) Postpartum Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms: The Uninvited Birth Companion. Israel Medical Association Journal 14: 347-353.