Dealing with Birth Trauma

If you are feeling traumatised or struggling to come to terms with a difficult birth experience, we may be able to help you. At BirthSense we have extensive experience of working with parents who have been traumatised by a previous birth experience and all our practitioners have specialist training in this area.

Photo of Cambridge doula & Hypnobirthing teacher Tracy Sealey
Tracy supporting a doula client

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What is Birth Trauma?

When we experience a traumatic event our mind and body will often go into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This means that our amygdala (the part of the brain responsible for our survival instincts) goes off like a loud alarm, flooding our body with the stress hormone adrenaline. This alarm drowns out everything else – cutting off the ability of our neo-cortex (the rational, analytical part of our brain), to think clearly. After all, rational thought is not much use if you are about to get eaten by a sabre tooth tiger – you need to act instinctively to survive. Ordinarily, once the event is over, the alarm quietens down and our rational brain can process the experience. It gets filed as a memory (an unpleasant one – but a memory nonetheless). In the case of severe trauma however, this process sometimes goes wrong because every time we are reminded of the event or try to process what happened the amygdala goes off like an oversensitive trip switch. We go straight back into fight/flight mode – re-living those emotions instead of simply remembering them. Unsurprisingly, these emotions can be particularly triggered during a subsequent pregnancy when a woman contemplates giving birth again.

How can birth trauma be resolved?

Unfortunately, traditional talking therapies such as counselling are not always the best way to help those with birth trauma – mainly because encouraging clients to talk about their experience can often just retraumatise them. There is, however, an intervention called the three-step rewind technique which has been shown to be an effective way of helping those suffering with birth trauma. The practitioner helps to facilitate a deep state of relaxation, which has the effect of calming an oversensitive amygdala. Then, through a guided relaxation activity the client is invited to remember the events in a very specific way which helps the brain to process what happened more effectively.

If you would like to speak to someone about whether the three-step rewind technique would be suitable for you please get in touch.