Birth trauma can be profound and unforgettable, often severely impacting a mother’s relationship with her child. It can also carry over into other close relationships with a partner, family, and friends. With proper support, relationships after a birth injury can be repaired and bonds restored. Learn more now about the impact of serious birth injuries and a mother’s relationship with her child.
Study Finds 85% of Mothers Said Birth Damaged Their Relationship With Child
In a recent study, the MASIC Foundation — an organization that supports mothers who experienced a serious injury during childbirth — found that 85% of women said that the birth injuries impacted a mother’s relationship with their child.
“Traumatic births can leave mothers with serious post-traumatic stress and can affect their relationships down the line.”
According to MASIC’s study of 325 participants, women who suffered severe birth injury reported the following:
- 85% felt an impact on the relationship with their child
- 78% were affected by traumatic memories
- 52% were embarrassed by their symptoms
- 49% doubted their ability to be a mother
- 45% suffered postnatal depression
- 34% viewed their child as the cause of their injuries
- 31% felt that their child would be better off without them
- 24% regretted having a child because of their injuries
- 14% said that it harmed the relationship permanently
The study also found that breastfeeding, which is often considered an important bonding experience between a new mother and her baby, is often affected. This is because the stress of a traumatic birth can delay milk production. This may worsen negative feelings since many women may view this as a failure, despite the biological and non-preventable nature of the occurrence.
What Causes The Disconnection Between Mother and Child After Birth Trauma?
By and large, childbirth is viewed as a beautiful and wonderful event. These beliefs can create enormous pressure for expecting mothers. They can play an especially crushing role to new mothers who experienced traumatic births.
“Women with trauma may feel fear, helplessness or horror about their experience and suffer recurrent, overwhelming memories, flashbacks, thoughts, and nightmares about the birth, feel distressed, anxious or panicky when exposed to things which remind them of the event, and avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma, which can include talking about it.”
– Patrick O’Brien, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK
Women are often forced to set aside their own trauma to immediately focus on their babies. Unfortunately, this can damage the bond between mother and child. Many women report feeling emotionally numb, even weeks after their baby is born.
If a hospital stay is required, disconnected feelings can be compounded due to being separated so soon after birth.
Some tips to help with the disconnection between mother and child include:
- Process your trauma
- Learn as much as you can about what you went through
- Give you and your baby time to get to know each other
- Try infant massage and babywearing
Trauma Can Affect Mother’s Relationships With Other Family Members
Becoming a new mother and experiencing trauma can make women feel like entirely new people, which can be jarring. This new identity may take a toll on relationships with those around them.
Relationships with partners can become strained, with sex sometimes even causing flashbacks of the traumatic birth. Sex can also cause fear if the woman associates it with getting pregnant again and having to face another trauma.
Women who had a traumatic birth report feeling angry with or let down by family and friends who they feel should have done more to support or protect them.
Additionally, as time goes by, family and friends may wish to stop talking about the event and expect the traumatized mother to move on. Not being able to talk about the trauma can create isolation and worsening negative feelings that further impact relationships.
Support for Mothers That Experienced Traumatic Births
Until improved resources and training for healthcare professionals to help mothers cope become widely available, being proactive in your own healing is critical.
Traumatic feelings are often worsened by well-intentioned friends and family who may say things like:
- “At least the baby is healthy.”
- “Next time it will be different.”
- “It’s just one day in your life.”
- “Thank goodness for modern medicine.”
While people mean well, some of the things they say may worsen feelings of isolation. Do your best to seek out as supportive an environment as possible. A nurturing environment will allow you to grieve and get your emotions out.
Support options for mothers who experienced a traumatic birth include:
- Attending support groups
- Speaking with a doctor or another healthcare provider
- Joining online forums, such as Solace for Mothers Online Community for Healing Birth Trauma
- Seeking legal support
- Talking to a licensed therapist
Mothers may benefit from reading books about recovering from traumatic childbirth situations.
Some of these books include:
- “Birth Crisis” by Sheila Kitzinger
- “Rebounding from Childbirth: Toward Emotional Recovery” by Lynn Madsen
- “Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth” by Walker Karraa
- “Traumatic Childbirth” by Cheryl Tatano Beck
If you experienced traumatic childbirth, you cannot change the past, but you are not alone. There are steps you can take to heal from your experience and reconnect with your child.
It is important to stay positive and not get discouraged if change doesn’t happen overnight. Your negative feelings are very real, but you can overcome them and someday find hope and healing again.