June is PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) awareness month. PTSD is often thought of as a condition that affects members of the military after experiencing traumatic events in war and combat. The reality is that PTSD can occur in any individual after any traumatic event. This includes birth.
As it turns out, a "healthy mom, healthy baby" after childbirth isn't all that matters when it comes to both the short and long-term health of both parties. Despite a "healthy" outcome, a birth experience can be traumatic to parents and have lasting mental health consequences -- this is true even if the birth does not "look" traumatic to outsiders. In fact, trauma psychologist and author Charles Figley has determined three characteristics that can result in trauma if they take place surrounding an event. According to these characteristics, an event can result in trauma, and PTSD, if it: happens suddenly/quickly; is overwhelming; is dangerous/life threatening. It is not uncommon for people to report these characteristics when describing their birth experience. For some, the trauma can result in PTSD.
In recognition of PTSD awareness month, and specifically in support of trauma that occurs from birth, Praeclarus Press -- the small press created by health psychologist and board-certified lactation consultant Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, FAPA -- released a help guide for families who have had a difficult birth experience. The free guide, "Making Peace with Your Birth Experience," validates what a person might feel and experience after a difficult birth, as well as proven strategies to heal from the experience. Also included at the end of the guide are several talks about birth trauma from the author, all of which can be found on her YouTube channel.
If you are having difficulty or suffering from what you feel and believe to be a difficult or traumatic birth experience, it's critical to get help. I encourage you to access and read through the steps to healing in this guide. Or, if it's too painful at the moment, pass it along to a trusted friend or family member who you know will be a helpful advocate and support person. The good news is that PTSD and birth trauma can be treated and healed.