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Birth Injury

Do You Suffer from PTSD After Giving Birth?

June 11, 2021

Childbirth is a significant cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The psychological toll of the events surrounding childbirth leads some women into PTSD, which follows them into their new motherhood.

Understanding PTSD Following Childbirth

Typical symptoms of PTSD after giving birth include:

  • Severe emotional distress
  • Flashbacks
  • Intrusive memories
  • Hypervigilance
  • Irritability
  • Sleep problems

Several factors lead to PTSD. Experiencing complications during labor and delivery increases the risk of developing PTSD. The psychology behind the development of PTSD is associated with expectations. Women usually do not anticipate experiencing a problematic birth. Consequently, when it occurs, it can cause long-lasting psychological scars.

A woman can develop PTSD if she feels forced into undergoing invasive procedures. Several studies have found women who have had emergency cesarean to be at a higher risk of suffering from PTSD than those who have gone through vaginal birth. The likelihood of postpartum PTSD is also higher for mothers who have had a long duration of childbirth.

Studies have also shown women who have suffered severe maternal complications, such as a prolapsed umbilical cord, major hemorrhage, and hypertensive disorders to be at a higher risk of exhibiting PTSD symptoms. A stillbirth and a newborn having a medical problem can also cause PTSD. A baby ending up in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) makes PTSD more likely.

It is estimated that up to 25% of women who deliver healthy full-term babies without any complications still experience PTSD symptoms. Environmental factors can also result in PTSD. These factors include low support during labor and delivery and poor communication between the mother and healthcare provider.

One study found an increase in the sense of control that a woman had during the labor and delivery process helped reduce PTSD risk, showing the importance of individually tailored obstetric care.

Effects of PTSD After Giving Birth

Mothers who experience PTSD after giving birth may feel abandonment, helplessness, and guilt. The feelings can directly impact mother-child relations. For a mother who experienced traumatic childbirth, her own child could be an emotional trigger, which could cause social isolation and put a strain on bonding. The symptoms that accompany PTSD following delivery could also negatively affect a couple’s relationship.

Unfortunately, childbirth-related PTSD has been underresearched. Many mothers choose to keep the symptoms to themselves, making the condition remain largely invisible. Considering the symptoms and effects of PTSD, mothers who have been through stressful or traumatic childbirth due to the negligence of healthcare providers can pursue medical malpractice damages with the help of a birth trauma lawyer.

About The Author

Photo of Jeffrey  Goldberg
Attorney Jeffrey M. Goldberg has spent his entire professional career handling cases involving birth injury, medical malpractice, product liability and related accidents.