Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is often a term used to describe veterans of war. Yet PTSD can develop after any experience where the brain struggles to process the memory of what happened particularly trauma at birth.
Cases where PTSD can develop may not on the surface appear ‘traumatic’ yet if we look at child birth, many women describe the experience and trauma at birth as over whelming and out of control.
Current estimates say that in the UK alone 50,000 women each year develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following giving birth. Many more are never diagnosed. PTSD is is highly common and can develop as the result of anything which causes high levels of emotional arousal such as bullying, abuse, witnessing an accident or even having to do some form of presentation at work.
Post Traumatic Stress disorder, what is it?
There is often a big confusion between postnatal depression and PTSD because the two have similar symptoms. Post natal depression is linked with long periods of low mood, lack of energy and interest in yourself and your baby. PTSD is distinct from postnatal depression and is a direct result of the level of trauma experienced during child birth. It occurs when the memory of an event is not processed in the brain making the experience feel like it was yesterday when it could have happened several years before. In the case of childbirth it can develop immediately or months later.
What are the signs of PTSD?
Symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks of the birth, nightmares, recurring thoughts about the birth, waking up in the night sweating, anxiety, poor gut function and feeling over whelmed or detached. Certain words or images can be a subconscious trigger taking the mother or father straight back in their mind to the experience. Other symptoms and difficulties associated include losing confidence, struggling with breast feeding, feeling a failure and avoidance of sex.
What is the link between childbirth and PTSD?
Lots of women can have their birthing plans changed at the last minute which can lead to them feeling they have little or no control during the actual birth. Even ‘normal’ births can lead to PTSD as women are left feeling helpless, particularly in hospital environments when surrounded by machines, IVs and people.
There is also a growing trend in the number of fathers suffering from PTSD having witnessed their partner going through the experience of childbirth and being powerless to help. Men can be stereotyped as having to be the strong ones and may not readily recognise that they are suffering because they are not the ones who have given birth.
What can be done to clear PTSD?
The good news is that PTSD can be cleared without the need for anti depressants or countless sessions of therapy. Therapists trained in Solution Focused Psychotherapy and Hypnotherapy can clear PTSD in one to two sessions using a specific and very powerful technique called the ‘rewind’ technique. This technique processes the original memory, unhooking the emotion from it, allowing it to move into the long term memory. The effect of using this technique is instant even in high levels of PTSD. Furthermore the technique can be used without the therapist needing to know the details of the experience which mitigates the need for the individual to re tell the story, causing even further upset.
One woman’s story:
Jenni had planned for a home birth but her baby wasn’t in the right position to allow her to give birth and ended up going into hospital half way through the birth. In hospital Jenni had a forceps and vontuse delivery. At the time of the birth she recalls feeling that total control was taken away from her and a sense that no one was talking to her. Following the birth of her baby Jenni proceeded to feel like she was on an emotional roller coaster and experienced constant feelings of anxiety , unable to make decisions or tune into her instincts.
“I went to see the doctor and he prescribed me anti depressants straight away and diagnosed me with post natal depression. I took one of the tablets, it made me physically sick, gave me a headache and a panic attack. Thankfully my sister recommended Sara a hypnotherapist. Sara began by asking a few introductory questions and I recognised how raw I was still feeling about the actual birth and how scary it had felt to have control taken away from me. Sara explained why I was feeling the way I was which felt hugely reassuring.
Within a day of the session I felt better and felt like I could finally sleep. My son is now 5 months old and I finally feel like me again. I’d never have thought that hypnotherapy would help me the way it did but I’m so glad I gave it a go”
Taking the next step
Just as we now have more choice about the birthing experience, we also have a lot more choice about the alternative treatments and therapies open to us. The answer no longer needs to lie in the bottom of a jar of anti depressants.
For many clients who have received freedom from the symptoms of PTSD in one session, the technique can feel like magic.