Birth Trauma Part 3

According to Cheryl Tatano Beck, traumatic birth is defined as “an event occurring during the labor and delivery process that involves actual or threatened serious injury or death to the mother  or her infant. The birthing woman experiences intense fear, helplessness, loss of control, and horror” she had later revised that statement to include the woman feeling stripped of her dignity.

What is the cause of women perceiving their birth experience as traumatic? It is the systemic elimination of protective care during the birthing process.

In Beck’s study of 40 women she says that there were four themes that emerged. Theme #1 was to care for the women and treating them as human beings. Theme #2: Lack of Communication.  Theme #3 was safety. Theme #4: The ends will justify the means.

With theme One: #1 women feeling they were objectified, and treated arrogantly and with a lack of empathy. The women were #2 left alone, and abandoned. The #3 birthing mother’s needs were not met by the hospital staff. An example given was of a woman from Puerto Rico who was on all fours, when a nurse brought in 20 students to observe…without her consent.

In theme Two: #1 no one communicated with the woman in labor. They were described as having conversations with one another within earshot but not directly talking with or to the laboring mother. As if she were non-existent.

In the third theme:  the #1 laboring mothers felt that the staff (nurses and doctors) did not adequately deliver safe care. #2 The mothers were not being allowed input into the care being given for their own selves and actually fearing for their own and / or the infant’s life!

In theme Four:  entailed #1 the sense that what was endured and experienced by the mothers was the sense of being “pushed to the background” as everyone around them were celebrating the baby’s healthy birth. These women #2 felt invisible, only the infant mattered.

The experiences mothers have had led to severe post-partum trauma and depression.  Beck, Driscoll, and Watson’s book Traumatic Birth goes into detail about feedback loops [pp. 10-12] that describe the interaction of the mother and child after a traumatic birth, with a listing of the causes and consequences of the cause. Sometimes even breastfeeding is difficult, creating “…intruding flashbacks, disturbing detachments with their infants, feeling violated, enduring physical pain, and insufficient milk supply…” Often the anniversary of a traumatic birth amplifies the feedback loop.

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My own reaction to the shared experiences the women in this book had illustrated the barbarism of western medical professionals, a barbarism that is completely contrary to those principles I listed from the ACOG website in part #2.

The women who tell their story of childbirth weave an astounding sense of personal alienation.  It is no wonder that there is PTSD, depression, self-destructive behaviors, socially isolationistic behaviors and pelvic floor injuries as a result of the improper calloused form of care received. Many of the women feel as though they were raped, yet most had no “history of physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse” so birth precipitated  a sense of having “the loss of the soul”.

I only touched on a small portion of the book in these three posts. In the next few blogs, I would like to address how we can alter the outcome for women in these circumstances and possibly change childbirth for women.

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Body Mechanics – 2

BODY MECHANICS

As your pregnancy advances, your body ligaments and joints will naturally loosen to allow for an easier birth, by allowing the pelvis to develop flexibility. The following suggestions will assist you in avoiding strain while doing the normal daily activities.

Stand Smart

To reduce ankle swelling and assist your circulation, avoid standing for long periods of time. In order to avoid circulation issues, periodically flex your calves and /or rotate the foot in circular motions. You should also alternate resting one foot then the other, on a stool.

Lift lightly

stooping lifting carryingYou already are carrying around and lifting more weight. Don’t lift heavy objects. For light lifting, use your arm, leg, and thigh muscles not your back. Don’t bend to get close to an object, squat. Keep that head of yours up and with your back straight. Lift by pushing up with your legs and flexing your arms. Avoid the urge to lift up a toddler, use the squat to get down to the child’s eye-level or sit on the floor to cuddle.

Sit Sensibly

sittingAvoid sitting for more than a half an hour at a time. Use straight-back chairs with a small pillow at the small of the back. Use a footstool, shift positions often, and avoid crossing your legs. Periodically exercise your calf muscles and do foot flexions and / or rotations.

When arising from the chair, avoid lunging forward. Slide your body to the edge of the chair, plant your feet on the floor, and use the leg muscles to lift yourself up. If someone is willingly offering assistance to get up, use it.

Sleep

During the final four to five months, side-lying is the best position. This is the best for baby and the most comfortable for you.

In the last trimester you should have at least four pillows. Two pillows should be under the head and at least one for the top leg to rest upon, and maybe one to support your lower back. Shift slightly forward towards the belly, to get the full weight off the lower leg.

Rise in the Proper Manner

Don’t sit up suddenly when the alarm goes off because it will strain your lower back and abdominal muscles. Don’t immediately swing your legs off the bed, as it would strain your lower back ligaments. Instead, roll onto your side and push yourself up by using your arms, into a sitting position then swing your legs gently over the side.