Healing from birth trauma – what support is available?

Welcoming a child into the world is always a time for celebration, but for many mothers it can also, sadly, be a very challenging time if they experience birth trauma. As lawyers we get an insight into this area of trauma, in the context of a woman bringing a legal claim for a failure to diagnose and treat a 3rd or 4th degree obstetric anal sphincter injury during childbirth.

As described by CAMH, in general terms trauma refers to a lasting emotional response that often results from living through a distressing event. It can often have lasting effects on an individual’s sense of safety, sense of self and ability to regulate emotions and navigate relationships.

What is deemed a childbirth trauma?

Birth trauma, also referred to as postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder (or postnatal PTSD for short), is diagnosed following a distressing event or events that occurred during childbirth. PTSD can include symptoms such as sweating and nausea, flashbacks and nightmares of the traumatic event, difficulty sleeping, and hypervigilance.

Despite the number of women who are affected by birth trauma every year, conversations about birth trauma and the impact it has on the lives of women who are affected are still few and far between. Sadly, this means that many women suffer in silence, too afraid to share their experiences or seek support when needed.

What support is available for those who have suffered from childbirth trauma?

Help is at hand with organisations such as MASIC and the Birth Trauma Association recognising that ongoing conversations about women’s experiences are invaluable in ensuring lessons are learnt to help women have better outcomes following childbirth. The MASIC Foundation are advocates for women and aim to change the lives of those injured during childbirth. The injuries are both physical and psychological and they provide a number of routes for support for women who feel they would benefit from additional psychological support.

The recent piece on Radio 4 Woman’s Hour featured MASIC’s very own Anna Clements discussing improving care for people who suffer from bowel incontinence, and was undoubtedly an eye opener for many listeners around this so called taboo subject.

Every year, the Birth Trauma Association seek to encourage ongoing conversations regarding birth trauma by choosing a theme to focus on during their Birth Trauma Awareness Week, which this year ran between the 17th-21st July. The theme for this year was “healing” and those who have experienced or are experiencing birth trauma were invited to share what has helped them heal or is helping them to heal from birth trauma.

How can women help to heal after a birth trauma?

There are many ways in which women may seek to heal from birth trauma including:

Joining a support group

Being able to speak with other women who have gone through or are going through similar experiences can often be extremely helpful. It can help women feel less isolated and build a sense of community. MASIC has an online private Facebook support group and a number of local face-to-face support groups.

Seeking professional mental health support

One to one sessions with a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist able to listen and provide practical ways to manage PTSD symptoms can be invaluable for some women.

Having physiotherapy

This can include treatments such as acupuncture, pelvic floor exercises, pessary fittings and pilates, or a combination of a range of treatments tailored to suit a women’s needs depending on the severity of the birth trauma suffered.

Some women may decide to seek legal advice where they are concerned that their birth trauma has been caused by medical negligence. Having a case investigated can help a woman get closure by understanding what happened to them and, where appropriate, securing compensation to help with ongoing physical and mental health support.

Moore Barlow is proud to be a part of MASIC’s legal panel able to provide legal advice and support to women who have suffered a serious injury caused by childbirth. The healing process will be different for every woman, but it is important that no matter how a woman chooses to heal, she feels supported and able to heal in her own way without judgement.

I am a Partner in the medical negligence team at Moore Barlow and a mum of 2. I have dealt with many maternal injury claims as well as other devastating injuries. There is a common theme, and that is the huge psychological impact any medical negligence case has on an individual and how, often, we as the lawyer have both the privilege and responsibility of guiding someone through the legal process in a sensitive way. Whilst approaching a lawyer can seem like a scary step to take, we are just human beings, here to listen, empathise, care and advise.

Maya Sushila, Partner

How can Moore Barlow can help you if you’ve suffered a childbirth trauma?

As a mother, if you feel that you have suffered a birth injury as a result of medical negligence, then you may be entitled to birth injury compensation. Speak to our team of birth injury lawyers at Moore Barlow today. We regularly represent clients in medical negligence and birth injury claims where injuries have occurred which could potentially have been avoided by better or alternative medical treatment and care.

Find out more about our birth injury compensation claims legal services and how we can help you.