Posts Tagged ‘birth trauma’

If you don’t pee in front of your partner, think twice about having him at the birth of your baby.

July 21, 2016

 

We are on a girlie week-end, climbing hills in the Derbyshire dales, and staying in a bed and breakfast. We are all escaping motherhood for a day or two. Over breakfast one morning, a conversation begins about peeing in the company of our husbands. I am surprised to hear a few women say they have never had a pee with their husband in the room. It turns out they have never broken wind in front of him either. I kind of think this is an awesome feat of bodily control that I wouldn’t be able to achieve!  It reminded me of how different we all are.

But it got me thinking, that if you feel embarrassed to go to the loo with your partner in the room, what must it be like to try to have a baby with him in the room? Having a baby is not particularly alluring, it involve body parts, it involves smells and noises, it is not “lady like” particularly, or “sexy”.

I have been thinking these things for a while, but not had the courage to write them down. There is something, even in our modern day liberated lives, that is not okay about writing about women’s bodies as functional rather than objects of desire. So, as you read this, notice any discomfort you might feel, and ask yourself “why is it not okay to read about my body in this way?”

Dbirth stool labouro you pee in front of your husband? Do you change your sanitary wear in front of him? Do you break wind in his presence? Do you orgasm freely and loudly with him? If so, birthing in front of him might be easier. Because birthing is about your body parts, and it is about things coming out of your body, and it is about letting your body be released from your mental inhibitions.

To orgasm freely, we need to feel uninhibited. We need to feel that we are not being judged or watched, to not feel self-conscious. Birth is the same. I’m not talking about orgasmic, hippy dippy births (yes, orgasmic births actually exist). I’m talking about all births without drugs, or knives. Because your body needs the hormone “oxytocin” to birth without a drug or a knife, and oxytocin disappears if we feel judged, self-conscious or worried.

So, it stands to reason that if you get very self-conscious at the thought of your partner seeing you being anything other than sexy and alluring, you might struggle with his presence at the birth. You might not want him to see you grunting or sweating. You might not want him to see you breaking wind, weeing, or even letting out a little poo. Having some-one in the room, who makes you feel anxious or inhibited is not good for birth. So think very carefully about your partner’s presence, and if you’re not sure, then  my advice is to address it, discuss it, think about it, as part of your birth preparation. Sophie Fletcher, in her book  Mindful Hypnobirthing, is one of the few birthing books to even talk about the fact that he doesn’t have to be there. It is a choice. If you know that you do want him there, prepare for that. The Mindful Mamma classes spend a lot of time of partners’ role. Learn how he can help you to elicit and release your oxytocin via his connection and love. Mark Harris talks about this in his book “Men, Love and Birth”. Ina May Gaskin maintains that the kissing that got baby in there, can get baby out too 🙂 Michel Odent argues that men’s presence in the birthing room might account for the rise in intervention. There’s no right and wrong. As I said at the beginning, we are all so different. But if you’re preparing for your birth, don’t prepare without addressing what it’ll be like for you to have him there, and what role he is going to play.

Mia Scotland

Birth Doula and Mindful Mamma hypnobirthing practitioner

http://www.yourbirthright.co.uk

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What actually happens during a therapy session?

May 12, 2016

MiaI’m excited about this referral because the money has been arranged by a health insurance company, so neither of us need worry about money. They have released money for 6 therapy session. She enters my room. I have no idea what I am going to hear, or what I am going to do. I begin in the same way that I always begin. I hear her story and watch her and help her feel comfortable in my presence. She is wringing her hands. She sits bolt upright. She is tense. I digest her story, process it, try to make sense of it, quickly enough to be able to feed back in that one session what I think might help her. As I listen, I mentally pick out her strengths, they will come in handy at some point (a technique from positive psychology and hypnosis). I teach her some calming and relaxation techniques, after helping her to understand why this is so important to do (when we are stressed, our thinking changes – it becomes narrower, more judgmental, more skewed, less rational, and things just seem much worse than they are. This is a change that is real, and has been demonstrated on brain scans). We record a relaxation session on her phone, tailored just for her. She told me she never relaxes, but in that five minutes, she did. She takes away the recording to listen to regularly (this activates the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering a calming response, helping her to think more clearly and calmly).

She comes in again the following week. She tells me that she has a major challenge on that week-end, so can we please help her cope with that. We do some cognitive work (challenging her negative beliefs about the stressful situation). We do some reframing (helping her to think of it differently). We do some behavioural strategy work (helping her to develop alternatives) and then we do some imaginary rehearsal (or rather, hypnosis, to get her to imagine herself actually acting out the coping behaviours. The brain needs to visualise to realise. Just talking isn’t enough).

We do some role play to cement the new cognitions (I give voice to the scary thoughts, and she answers them with the new ways of thinking). This bit is quite fun, and it gives me a really good idea of whether the work we have done so far has been understood by her. It has.

I then finish off the session with an NLP/hypnotic technique (neuro-linguistic programming technique) to cement at a deep level, the new behaviours. It’s called the Swish pattern technique, and I use it quite a lot. I can see in her face that it has worked supremely well (because she looks confused as she tries to bring up the old image of her previously anxious self. Her brain can no longer access it).

The next session, she comes in smiling. She relaxes onto my sofa. She tells me she is feeling good. She tells me she had a good week-end. It all went fine. It’s not that she coped with, or managed her anxiety, it’s that it wasn’t there in the first place. She tells me that it just didn’t really figure in any way. She doesn’t really know how it changed. I tell her that we had “reset the system” back to her old, relaxed happy self (that was the strengths that I had picked up on in the first session) but I don’t think she understands. This happens a lot. People get better, but they don’t know why or how. I do, but I don’t bother trying to explain it, as that would somehow take the magic out of it.

So, there’s no need to arrange a further session. She will call me if she gets any symptoms back again, and we will hypnotically release the past traumas that trigger her anxiety (using the Rewind technique). But we won’t do that now, because she chooses to just enjoy life and get on with it again (I did give her the choice).

So, the planned 6 sessions became 3. This happens all the time. Because when I introduced hypnosis and NLP into my cognitive behavioural model of working, change began to happen super-fast. And super easily. The adage “no pain no gain” is simply not true.  This super speed may not be good for my income ( I lost out on three sessions worth of pay), but it’s great for my work satisfaction.

Mia Scotland, Clinical Psychologist

www.miasscotland.co.uk 

 

“I’m scared I’m going to harm my baby…”

April 28, 2016

mia brochure photoWhat do you say when you hear the words “I’m terrified that I’m going to harm my baby”

Those words are ones that would be hard to say if you’re a mother. But if you’re a professional, be it a midwife, a health visitor, a doula or a counsellor, they can be hard to hear too. Those words represent an ultimate taboo.  A mother wanting to harm her own baby…..

But just wait a minute. If you are very astute, you will have spotted my deliberate error there. Can you see it? They are not the same thing. “I’m terrified I’m going to harm my baby” is not the same as “I want to harm my baby”.

If you hear a mother say “I’m terrified I’m going to harm my baby” the chances are she is suffering from an anxiety disorder, and she is not a danger to her baby. She is about as dangerous as some-one with fear of heights, who stands near(ish) a cliff and says “I’m terrified I’m going to jump off”.  You wouldn’t call the crisis team in this instance would you? Instead, you might say “no you’re not, you’re just scared”. It’s the same with mothers. If a mother is anxious (and especially if she is suffering from perinatal or maternal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) then she might talk about suffocating her baby, but she can be reassured that she isn’t mad or bad, she is scared.  And of course, if you make the mistake of reacting like she is mad or bad, and call the crisis team, you certainly aren’t going to ease her anxiety!

To find out more about perinatal mental health problems, come to my workshop for birthing professionals on Friday 10th June 2016. For details, click here 

Mia Scotland, Author of “Why Perinatal Depression Matters” and Perinatal Clinical Psychologist.

Pass The Bomb: who is going to contain your anxiety when you are with your newborn baby?

January 26, 2016

iStock_000064471321_SmallNew parents are anxious. And according to research, they are getting more and more anxious. I often hear cases of mums unable to sleep because they are terrified. Terrifed that their babies aren’t breathing. Terrified that the room is too hot. Terrified that baby hasn’t fed enough. Terrified that they will damage their baby. Dads are getting postnatal depression too, at rates almost as high as for women. They are scared too. I want to talk about a psychological piece of gold, that can ease anxiety, but that new parents are lacking in our modern lives.

Containment is a psychology term that basically means; the process of stopping anxiety from bouncing around the room.  Containing situations and emotions is something that all good parents do (and therapists too). It’s not easy to explain, but I’ll give you an example of when containment is NOT happening. My son may come to me in a flap because his friends have said to him (in a flap) that he has to start job hunting now, because a teacher said to his friends (in a flap) that jobs are very competitive and they need to take this seriously and start job hunting now. I can continue the flapping by saying “what? Are you serious? Now? That’s crazy. Can it really be that bad? Oh my goodness, I don’t know what we are supposed to do with that information, it’s a crazy world out there”. And in my exasperation, I tell my friends, who are also parents, and pass the flapping on. The anxiety continues down the line, because no one has contained it.

Or, as a parent, I can provide some containment. In doing so, the anxiety disperses. I do this by “containing” my own feelings of exasperation or anxiety, and I can calmly and warmly say “honey, that sounds very pressurising, I can understand that you’re worried (empathy). But you know what? It’s going to be fine, because you have at least a year before you need a job, you’ve already got a great CV, and I’m going to help you get yourself sorted. Shall we take a look this week-end?”  He relaxes, and the “containment” goes back down the line, because he tells his mates “actually, we do have a year, and we’ve got our CVs done already, and I’m not worried about it” and so on. Containment kills anxiety.

I was watching an episode of the British Sitcom “On the Buses” recently. It’s an amazing watch, because it is a rare glimpse into social history. It is set in working class London, in the early 1970s. It is clear, watching this, that it was normal to go through your first pregnancy, birth and babyhood, whilst still living with your parents. This was common before the 1970s, because newly weds couldn’t afford their own house. In one particular episode, a pregnant woman and her mother were chatting about the baby in a tiny kitchen, which serves as a wash room and a living room all in one. The pregnant woman was expressing anxieties about becoming a mum. The mother’s mother responded with something along the lines of “I’ll be ‘ere anyways, so you ain’t got narfin’ ta worry abart” (I made that bit up, I can’t remember exactly what she said). She was replying with reassurances, in a tone that kind of said “I totally get why you’re anxious, because I was” (empathy) and added “but really, it is so easy to look after a new baby, that you have nothing to worry about”. She was nonchalant, but empathic too, and containing.

Nowadays, new parents go home to their own house when they have their baby. And they don’t really want the mother in law around too much. And they don’t want her advice, because advice has changed so much. So they go home and do it themselves. Here-in lies the danger: What they don’t realise is, they have no-one to contain the anxiety. This is critical, but overlooked. Hazel Douglas defines containment as being “when one person receives and understands the emotional communication of another without being overwhelmed by it, processes it and then communicates understanding and recognition back to the other person. This process can restore the capacity to think in the other person.” Thus, it is a powerful tool for helping the person become unstuck from paralysing anxiety, to help them become functional again, to “think” again. Because, you know what? Working out what to do when a baby cries, learning how to pick up a baby, rock a baby, feed a baby, change a baby, keep it alive, is quite a big task when you are new to it.

And when there is no-one around to contain the anxiety in the middle of the night, it all gets a lot more stressful. And if you are scared and anxious, you are passing that on to your baby. Your baby picks up on “something is the matter”. So your baby is more likely to cry. So it gets worse. What you need, is someone to come in and contain the situation. Some-one who has done it before, who can calmly, empathically and warmly turn the situation around with one look and one smile. She sprinkles magic fairy dust into the room, just like a real life fairy godmother. Who is going to do that for you? Traditionally, it would have been mothers, sisters, midwives or aunties.

Nowadays, fathers are courageously trying to fill this gap. They are mucking in with the night time nappy changes and the job of caring for the baby. That, in itself, is a big job if you’ve never done it before. But dads, you have an extra job. You are also there to support the mother, so that when she is crying on day three of the baby blues, you can hold her in your arms and tell her that you love her. All very well, but can you tell her, knowingly, that it’ll be okay? Can you tell her, from experience, that it’ll pass? Can you tell her, and feel, that you are calm and strong and capable of handling all of this? Can you contain the situation?

Probably not. Because you have never done this before, either. You are tired from the birth too. You are on unknown, scary territory. You haven’t got the benefit of wisdom and experience on your side. You need some-one to come in and say to you “it’ll be okay, hold her in your arms, tell her you love her, let her cry all over you, you are doing an amazing job by just being there for her”. Dad needs containment too, so that he can be there for the mother. The mother needs containment so that she can be there for the baby.

So, how can you build in the psychological gold nugget that is “containment” into your postnatal birth plan? Well, you haven’t got time to wait for the NHS to provide it in the form of regular midwife visits postnatally with continuity of care, so you need to do it yourself. Think about which members of your family help you feel safe, nurtured, and cared for. Bring them in to help. Ask them to move in! If no-one is available, think about paying for this kind of help. Lactation consultants, postnatal doulas, night nurses, private midwives, all do a fantastic job. Postnatal doulas are not expensive. They are trained in all aspects of new parenthood, and they are exceptional at taking care of your needs so that you can take care of your baby. This will take the pressure off the father too, so that he can remain strong, and enjoy the process.

Think twice before you spend your money on a travel system, or on pretty wall paper with matching bedding. Think about your emotional wellbeing before your physical wellbeing, and you, your partner and your baby can thrive as early as possible in your incredible journey as that most precious thing in the world: creating your very own family.

mia brochure photoMia Scotland is a Clinical Psychologist and author specialising in the Perinatal Period. See her website at www.yourbirthright.co.uk or buy her book, Why Perinatal Depression Matters from Pinter and Martin.

Can a two year old be traumatised?

October 28, 2015

Can a two year old be traumatised?

I was asked recently how to help a two year old settle at night. The wonderful book “The Rabbit who Wants to Fall Asleep” wasn’t working, along with countless other things that the beleaguered parents had tried. This came up in conversation during a mindful hypnobirthing class, and myself and another CBT therapist both got completely side tracked, and set about trying to find the answer to the problem, by asking the parents (who are tired, sick of advice, and frankly, stuck), lots of questions about their troublesome two year old.

Given that I was supposed to be running a hypnobirthing class, I had to curb my curiosity, and my urge to help, and get the subject back to talking about birth and babies – which was the object of the day. However, my brain remembers that there was unfinished business, so I’m going to finish it in the form of this blog.

It got really interesting when they said that their little girl’s sleep patterns had been fine, until, during the summer, their cat had jumped in through the window, onto her bed, in the middle of the night, waking her up with an awful shock.

Since then, she fusses about going to bed, she imagines all sorts of things that are scary in her bedroom, and she waked up in the middle of the night, and can’t go back to sleep unless she gets into her parents bed. Sound familiar?  Of course it does. This is classic two year old behaviour. At the age of two, there is a strengthening of the child’s “attachment behaviour” (there is also one at about nine months old).  This means that she is more likely to get clingy and want to know that her parents are around, so they can keep her safe. It kind of makes sense, because at the age of two, a child becomes more independent physically (she can run much faster) but she is also becoming more independent psychologically, because her neocortex is developing at a very fast rate. This means she can plan ahead, be persuaded into things by others, she can plan exciting things like how to run away from home and have an adventure, and so on.  Thus, she is arguably a little more vulnerable to getting lost, or getting eaten by a wolf.  Nature protects her by providing an in-built mechanism to keep her parents close.  The attachment process is even stronger at night, because the child needs to be kept safe from the dark. Her imagination of “monsters” is formed at this age (tigers, wolves, strange men from warring tribes, etc.).  These monsters are as real to her, as dangers of heights, flying, spiders, or whatever your personal fear might be. She just does not feel safe, and she can’t explain why, just as we can’t explain why we don’t feel safe in the presence of a tiny cute spider that we know can’t harm us.

So, unfortunately, in the case of our little girl and her cat, this cat jumped on her bed at a critical point in her development. It fast tracked and heightened her need to know that her parents are close in the middle of the night, and made her needs for a strong attachment much stronger. However, I also think it traumatised her. This means, that the experience got “wedged” in the limbic system (the alarm signal of our brain) and hasn’t been processed as a memory. In other words, when she goes to bed at night, her alarm system triggers “oh no, this is where I’m not safe, this is where scary things happen to me”. Her alarm system is trying to protect her, but it has got it wrong. Her alarm system thinks that she is still in danger, when in fact, she is perfectly safe (the window is closed, and the cat cannot jump on her again).  However, with her amygdala firing off, she is struggling to settle at night, even when a lovely hypnotic cd is being played.

In therapy, when I help a person recover from trauma, the single most important thing is for the person to feel safe. You cannot recover from trauma while your alarm system is firing. It will listen to nothing else, no logic, no reason, no nothing. To get the brain to “listen” and process the memory, we have to calm the amygdala first and foremost.  I do this with relaxation and hypnotic techniques. But in the case of the little girl, the thing that helps her feel safe is the proximity of her parents. So, here is my advice for how to help this little girl settle at night, and how to help her parents get some much needed sleep.

  1. Go to bed with her (or sit in the room with her) and stay there silently, while she falls asleep. You can use this time to practice your meditation, or mindfulness techniques. You can use this time to notice her breathing near you, to notice the warmth of her body, to notice how jittery and lively your own mind is, and to learn to calm it. Do not focus on whether she is sleeping or not, as she will notice this tension. Just focus on your own wish to relax and be mindful. You might even get a power nap yourself. The need to do this will pass. It might take a few months to be honest, but a few weeks might be enough. At some point, she won’t care whether you are actually in the room or not, so long as she feels safe, and so long as she feels sleepy. The argument about whether you can “spoil” a child, or whether she might be attention seeking, or “playing you” is worthy of a whole other blog.  Just trust me for now, that if you meet her needs (for security) without additional gains (such as playing, or fun), then you will not make things worse.
  2. At other times in the day, talk to her about the cat incident that “happened when you were so little” or “that happened so long ago” or “that cannot not happen any-more”. Get her to tell the story, draw it, or act it out between the two of you. Make it a game, make it fun. Finish the “story” with a definitive “it’s over”. For example, if you are “playing” the cat game, and you are the cat, make a point of being thrown out of the room, and not ever being allowed back in. Or she can pretend to be “mummy” and cuddle her doll better, after the doll got a shock from the cat, and explain to her doll that the cat won’t do that again because the window is locked now.  (Being cuddled better might be important, because in my experience, a lot of trauma comes from a sense of having felt alone at the time of the trauma). You won’t need to do this more than a few times for it to have done the job of helping her brain to process the event as a “memory” rather than an ongoing “danger”.

I know that these parents have the wholehearted sympathy of so many parents who are tired, exhausted, confused, fed-up, worried, beyond caring, bewildered, all because they have the joys of a two year old in their lives.  Good luck with it, and know that it really does get an awful lot easier as they get older J

Fear of Birth, fear of the system.

July 10, 2015

I I’ve just spent a day with midwives at the Fear in Birth conference at Huddersfield.  I love going on midwifery conferences, because the energy in the room is always one of care, compassion, power and hope.

The many speakers were thought provoking, interesting, and inspiring.  The thread throughout the day was of the important of continuity of care – that if we can provide women with the same midwife throughout her perinatal journey, we can do so much to dispel her fear, and that will have a positive consequence for her  and her baby.    I don’t know why, after so many years of it being so obvious that continuity of care is a “no brainer”, we are still failing to provide this basic need in our NHS system.  It almost feels like every effort is being made to AVOID continuity of care, and the part of me that is prone to “conspiracy theories” begins to wonder if it is a subconscious but deliberate attempt to stop women connecting and uniting.

There were two areas that were not raised, which I have been mulling over.  One is the fact that midwives are the only NHS profession who understand what birth actually is.  I will repeat that.  Midwives are the only profession in the NHS who understand normal birth.  Every-other profession  shares the cultural view of society – that birth is dramatic, dangerous, fast, excruciatingly painful, and usually goes wrong.  Midwives, as a whole, do not share this view.  They know that birth can be joyful, empowering,  ecstatic, easy, and safe.  They know the joy of birth, the miracle of the birthing body. No one else in the NHS does. In my opinion, midwives are the only profession in the NHS who can really address birth fear, because they are the only ones who really get that it doesn’t have to be feared.

The second issue is about what causes birth fear and why it is growing so dramatically. I’m sorry to say, that one of the main reasons, is because women have had poor experiences of the system.  They don’t trust the system, and they are scared of it, because it has let them down so many times.  Only two hours ago, I have had a woman on the phone, looking for support.  She told me eloquently and clearly, why she wants a doula.  Her words saddened me deeply, and I can’t give the full depth of raw emotion and beautiful wording that she used, but here is a snap-shot.  She told me that at the last birth, “they left me on my back, in stirrups, with my leg up, I felt like I was being raped, there was so much wrong, I can’t even begin, in the end they wanted to do a c-section, and they told me that they were doing the c-section because they needed the bed”.  Whilst in tears, this strong, able women, tells me that while she is trying to negotiate a VBAC, “they make me feel like my choices are ridiculous, I feel so vulnerable, manipulated, their words are so heavy, they’re pushing on a bruise, I want to trust my instincts but they’ve taken that away from me”.  These stories are what scare women.  We can’t just blame media portrayals of birth, we can’t just blame individuals with a history of child abuse.  We also have to look to a system which denigrates women, belittles them, tells them what they are and aren’t allowed to do, puts them on their backs for “internal examinations” that do nothing to progress labour, leaves them on their backs against all the evidence, straps them to the bed with wires that they are told are necessary to keep their baby alive, even though the evidence tells us otherwise, tells them they are too old, too fat, too overdue, too thin, to have the baby, play the dead baby card (as if mum is putting her needs above her baby’s) and so on and so on.

So, midwives, you are so important in reducing birth fear.  You can spread the word, that birth is a positive incredible natural process.  And you can continue to fight to keep the midwifery-led units alive, along with their ability to respect birth and respect the woman.  The more of those we have, the better things will get.  You know that, I know that, but I just wanted to say it again.  Midwives, you rock!

Birth Trauma – Can it be fixed?

January 21, 2013

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The word “traumatised” has become like the word “starving” and the word “depressed”.  It has been watered down,  from something quite serious and potentially life threatening, to something we flippantly say when chatting about our experiences.  We might say “I am absolutely starving” instead of “I’m famished”.  We might say “I was so depressed” because our Christmas pressie turned out not to be the long awaited diamond ring.  And we might say “it was traumatic” when we mean “it was horrible”.  But we all know that to actually be starving means something very different.  And we might or might not know that to actually be depressed is a miserable state of being, a condition, not a fleeting  emotion.

So what about trauma?  If something was really scary and upsetting and horrible, were we traumatised?  Well, to a psychologist, trauma is as much about the aftermath of an experience, as it is about what actually happened. It is about how it leaves us feeling, long after the event.  It is not always about what actually happened, or even about how bad it was at the time. I’ve heard some birth stories that are so horrible, my insides are shrinking when I hear them.  But the mums are fine with it.  In fact, sometimes, the mums are remembering the experience fondly (I kid you not!  It must be the oxytocin).  I hear other birth stories that sound wonderful when described.  But the mums are sobbing with grief and horror while they tell me, even when the birth was years before.  How can that be?

Trauma is about the injury, not the event.  It’s like breaking a bone.  I might fall down a big flight of stairs, and walk away unscathed.  On the other hand, I might trip up over nothing, and break my ankle.  One cannot predict this, or control it.  The person who broke their ankle is not weaker or more stupid, and they cannot “pull themselves together”.

So when we are listening to a birth story, we don’t need to know about the event. We need to know about the reaction to the event. I want to know “can you talk about it without crying”.  I want to know “does it impact on your dreams”.  I want to know “do you try to shove it to the back of your mind, but you find it impossible”.  I want to know “what impact is it having on your life”.  I want to know “how long ago did it happen”.  If it is less than a few months, and the person is telling me about it, the chances are, she will be okay.  Usually, I’m hearing the story years later, because the person is pregnant again, and this flares up the previous trauma.

Is birth trauma treatable?

Yes.  I have been treating trauma for over 20 years, with an enormous amount of success.  It is treatable.  I promise you.  Time isn’t always enough. Some people go all their lives traumatised, until they receive treatment.  War veterans have suffered for decades with PTSD , until a short course of treatment lifts it.  And it can really feel like something has been lifted.  As one person once said to me “it was here – in my forehead – I couldn’t get rid of it – always there – always in my way.  It has gone.  I can’t believe it, it has totally gone”.    There are treatments out there that work.  We aren’t exactly sure what the treatments actually do, we just know they work.  They seem “move” the memory from the “I’m not safe” (threat activated) part of the brain, and lay the memory to rest in the “it was awful but it’s over” part of the brain.  While traumatised, the person feels as if it as just happened, and the body and brain are in a state of hyper-arousal.  This might involve nightmares, flashbacks, irritability, moodiness, tearfulness,  sleep problems , anger with your loved ones, constant memories of the incident, and efforts to push it out of your mind unsuccessfully.  If you are a new mother, it has even more consequences, because it interrupts the process of bonding with your baby.  Furthermore, the normal chaos that comes with adjusting to a new baby is heightened to create a potentially miserable cocktail.  Fathers can be traumatised by the birth too, but they often go under the radar, so we know very little about this. Mothers have been going under the radar for a long time, because many cases of PTSD were misdiagnosed as post natal depression.  We are only just beginning to realise how common post natal depression is in fathers (almost equal to mothers, in some studies) and the fact that this might be related to birth trauma in fathers.

In our society, we are led to believe that we should be able to control our emotions, but if we have been traumatised for 6 months or more, then trying to control it may exacerbate the problem. This is because, with PTSD, the more we try to “control” the emotions (in other words, the more we try to push the memory to the back of our minds), the more the problem anchors itself in the brain, because you are preventing the brain from processing  the event properly.  This is where therapy can help.  Therapy enables the brain to change the memory, so that it becomes processed into the “history” part of the brain rather than the “I’m not safe” part of the brain.  Before that, the memory seems to be stuck in the “oh my god I’m not safe and this is awful” part of the brain, leaving the person with “symptoms” as outlined above.

There are many effective therapies out there. I’ve tried a few of them. I now mostly use the rewind technique (a hypnotic technique, taught to me by the Human Givens Institute) which seems to be the most effective, the quickest, and the least distressing.   It can be one session.

I am now teaching this fast, fairly painless and effective technique to professionals who find that they want to help parents let go of the horror of a difficult birth. It’s a two day course which gets great feedback. It gets great feedback on the day, but also great feedback when people start applying the technique. There really is nothing better than knowing that you have made a dramatic difference to some-one’s life. To find out more about the upcoming training workshops, go to http://www.traumaticbirthrecovery.com/courses-for-professionals/

Mia Scotland

Clinical Psychologist

http://www.yourbirthright.co.uk