Postpartum Trauma Disorders (e.g. PTSD)

Postpartum Trauma Disorders (e.g. PTSD)

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is one of a group of trauma and stressor-related disorders. People often associate these with war veterans, police officers, or paramedics, but trauma-related disorders are widespread in most communities and are more common in women than in men.
Not all trauma symptoms meet criteria for a formal diagnosis of PTSD, but that does not mean they involve less suffering. Although some women and partners may be relieved to hear there is a diagnostic label, such as PTSD, not everyone wants or requires a psychiatric diagnosis. In addition, sufferers may experience PTSD at the same time as other mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, relationship problems, and many attempted strategies for self-treatment. When the symptoms interfere with the person’s life, professional help is likely to be needed.

Research linking birth trauma and PTSD remains fairly limited at this stage, but you can find some published articles on our ‘Birth Trauma Research‘ page.

PTSD Symptoms

The following is a summary of symptoms associated with birth-related PTSD.1

  • repetitive memories (or flashbacks) that are hard to control and intrude into everyday life
  • nightmares
  • extreme distress caused by reminders of the trauma (may be prompted by smells, sounds, words or other triggers
  • avoiding places, people or objects that may trigger memories of the traumatic event
  • not wanting to talk about or think about the event
  • feeling a sense of hopelessness about the future
  • negative beliefs about yourself or the world
  • blaming yourself or others unreasonably
  • intense worry, depression, anger or guilt
  • not being able to remember the traumatic event
  • becoming emotionally detached from others
  • constant, excessive alertness
  • constantly alert for signs of danger
  • being easily startled
  • aggressive behaviour
  • difficulty sleeping
  • poor concentration.

PTSD Treatment Information

Both professional help and appropriate resources are available.

Before specific treatment for PTSD or another trauma-related disorder is approved you will require a comprehensive health assessment from your chosen health professional. Treatments include an array of psychological therapies and/or medication.

Research indicates that exercise, attention to diet and self-help therapies can also be beneficial in the treatment of trauma. These activities can be safely used in conjunction with psychological therapies and medication.
Perhaps the most important thing to understand is that you can get better. Most women suffering from trauma disorders who seek professional help recommence full and satisfying lives both at home and at work. A combination of physical, psychological and self-help strategies is usually required. This may include online programs.
In the end, it is a matter of finding the combination that works most successfully for you as an individual. Each person reacts differently to symptoms and other factors such as anxiety, so this will naturally influence your choices. It is also a good idea to seek advice from your doctor or mental health professional to ensure the most appropriate treatment to address your symptoms. Sometimes a team approach may be chosen for your situation, and in this case it is vital that one health care professional monitors all aspects of your care.

Your first appointment should be with your GP. Speaking with the GP will enable you to select the care plan that best suits your needs. Your GP may complete a formal mental health care plan and refer you to an appropriate specialist. We also strongly suggest word of mouth, speaking with other women either through your mothers’ group or on forums. Ideally your specialist should be an expert in birth trauma.

Reading our ‘What is Birth Trauma’ page will also give you some starting points for getting the support you may need from family and friends and for the discussion with a healthcare professional.

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