Mothers suffering from PTSD due to a traumatic child birth involving birth injuries should seek immediate medical assistance.
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a condition that is usually associated with an extremely traumatic and stressful situation like an assault, war, or a disaster. However, it has been found that about 1 to 6 percent of women experiencing childbirth suffer from PTSD. Studies have shown that women who experience extremely traumatic childbirths that result in birth injuries are prone to developing PTSD.
While child birth can often result in a number of birth injuries, especially those caused by negligence on part of the medical practitioners, it can also result in the mothers suffering from long-term mental stress. Let’s consider this in detail.
Studies have highlighted several factors that can contribute to maternal PTSD. Researchers have looked into pre-existing psychological and medical issues, the extent of trauma caused at childbirth and post pregnancy support given. They have established a number of factors that can cause maternal PTSD, especially if the baby suffers birth injuries. They are:
- Pre-existing psychological trauma, depression, anxiety issues, or any other pre-existing psychological conditions.
- Women with little or no control during the birthing process, experiencing prolonged stress, excessive loss of blood, or use of delivery assisting tools like forceps or vacuum.
- No control over the birth injury caused to the infant.
- Blaming themselves for the birth injury.
PTSD or Postpartum Depression?
Many doctors tend to confuse maternal PTSD and postpartum depression. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM, 5th edition) and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and, the symptoms of maternal PTSD differ from postpartum depression. Maternal PTSD victims generally display the following symptoms:
- Having intrusive, unwanted thoughts, flashbacks and continuously reliving the traumatic experience.
- Avoiding anything associated with the event (e.g. Visiting the hospital)
- Irritability, insomnia, or anger outbursts
- Hyper-vigilance exhibited as a trauma coping mechanism
- Recurrent dreams of the traumatic event and nightmares
- Estrangement and detachment
- Feeling of a stunted future (marriage, career or lifespan)
- Startled or exaggerated response
- Chronic psychological distress
Postpartum depression is different from Maternal PTSD. Victims of postpartum depression do exhibit some of these symptoms; however, it is not necessarily an outcome of a traumatic event. Their depression typically does not get linked with only one event as in the case of maternal PTSD.
Coping with Maternal PTSD
Having a good support system – encouraging family members and friends – can help new mother avoid developing PTSD after a traumatic childbirth. Mothers suffering from PTSD due to a traumatic child birth involving birth injuries should seek immediate medical assistance.