perinatal mental health

Reproductive Trauma & Perinatal PTSD: Integration is possible.

For many mamas the experience of trying to get pregnant, pregnancy itself, and/or the delivery and postpartum process may not have gone as expected. In fact, Postpartum Support International (PSI) estimates that about 1 in 7 moms and 1 in 10 fathers experience perinatal depression and/or anxiety – this can be throughout or after pregnancy.

An added layer to perinatal mental health concerns include the experience of trauma.

Trauma is anything that is a shock to your system – physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Trauma leads to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and voicelessness.

Trauma is anything that is a shock to your system – physically, mentally, emotionally, or spiritually. Trauma leads to feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and voicelessness.

What are some experiences before, during, or after pregnancy that may lead us to feel helpless, hopeless, or voiceless?

Trying to get pregnant and experiencing infertility, miscarriage, and/or early infant loss is often traumatic for families and individuals. Difficult pregnancies or birth experiences, including experiences in the NICU, can also be a shock to our mind, bodies, and spirits. Even if baby and parents are healthy and the delivery went “medically well,” not having a voice or full informed consent for procedures during one’s birth may also be traumatic. In addition, many parents report feelings of grief and loss throughout the experience of postpartum depression and anxiety itself – as their postpartum period did not go how they had anticipated.

The term “reproductive trauma” encompasses many layers of trauma that can be experienced throughout the journey of trying to become a parent. Our experiences of trauma can eventually develop into post-traumatic stress – also known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While PTSD is often associate with veterans or war zones, about 9% of parents experience perinatal PTSD.

Trauma is defined by each individual. In the end, how you felt and how your body responded to experiences is who and what defines trauma.

In the end, how you felt and how your body responded to experiences is who and what defines trauma.

My journey in helping support mamas and families started when I worked in the field of domestic violence. It was through walking alongside women’s journeys in abusive relationships and experiences of childhood abuse and trauma that I learned how our bodies often associate reproductive and birth trauma with past childhood trauma.

Our bodies remember what happened. Yet, at the same time, our bodies desire to move toward trauma integration, or feelings of wholeness and balance.

Many mamas may have fears about being seen as crazy or being permanently damaged. And a myth about treatment is that medications is your only option. While medication may be part of your self-care plan, the main recommended treatment for trauma is trauma therapy. There are also numerous alternative treatment options we can connect you with for those wanting holistic, or integrative approaches.

Our bodies and minds are resilient and desire to move forward from trauma.

Our bodies and minds are resilient and desire to move forward from trauma.

Moving forward does not mean forgetting, avoiding, or denying what has happened. Instead, moving forward for many means to acknowledge what has happened – the hurt, grief, loss, difficulties – within a therapeutic space and to process through what these experiences means for us now in the present and into our futures.

This is the work we do together in therapy. We work together to integrate trauma so that you find more balance, hope, and purpose in life again.

While we will never forget what happened and we cannot reverse experiences, trauma and PTSD do not need to define the remainder of your life. And if it currently defines your life, keep in mind that trauma is not time limited. Time does not always heal trauma. No matter how long it has been since you’ve experienced trauma, trauma may show up through continued physical health problems, anxiety and ongoing feelings of hopelessness, and difficulties connecting with yourself or others.

PSI’s tagline is: “You are not alone, you are not to blame, and with help, you will be well.” Your journey to wellness no longer needs to wait and can begin today.

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