Why is PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) so important for new moms? What can caretakers do to help?

It is only after we or a close loved one goes through a difficult birth that we realize the very common realities of pregnancy! It is true that many women do have the whole birth experience that mirrors their expectations. However, so many mothers undergo emergency C-Sections, breastfeeding challenges, interventions, other forms of emergency deliveries, painful childbirth process, etc. In short, no matter how well-prepared a mother-to-be thinks she is, there are unforeseen circumstances that don’t live up to her expectations!

Facts tell us that almost 10% of women who go through childbirth experience postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) later. This specific kind of PTSD is associated with trauma that occurs or is perceived to occur during delivery or postpartum, such as:

  • Baby transferred to NICU
  • Prolapsed cord
  • Feeling powerless
  • Unplanned C-section
  • Being unable to communicate feelings during the delivery
  • Baby delivered with the help of forceps or vacuum extractor
  • Lack of support during the delivery
  • Women with a history of previous trauma, such as rape or sexual abuse
  • Women going through severe physical complications or pregnancy-related injury, such as unexpected hysterectomy, severe postpartum hemorrhage, severe preeclampsia/eclampsia, or cardiac disease, etc.

Symptoms

The following symptoms of postpartum PTSD have been observed:

  • Anxiety
  • Re-experiencing of a past traumatic event, including childbirth
  • Panic attack
  • Flashbacks
  • Feeling detached
  • Avoiding event-associated stimuli, such as people, thoughts, places, feelings, and details
  • Nightmares
  • Remaining aroused, such as staying irritable, hyper-vigilant, unable to sleep, exaggerated startle response, etc.
  • Feeling a sense of unreality

Find other symptoms here.

Causes

While any woman can develop postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder, certain factors increase the risk of certain women for developing it. These include:

  • Feeling uncared for or being abandoned by their partner or providers during pregnancy or childbirth
  • Feeling invalidated as to what they go through while giving birth
  • Not being informed about choices regarding herself and her baby and only coming to know about them later
  • Feeling powerless and under-supported by the medical staff assisting during childbirth
  • Intense fear of a previous trauma causing a mother to go into childhood
  • Being ignored owing to baby’s health and well-being

source

Consequences

Without finding the support they need, postpartum PTSD can have significant consequences on new moms! For instance, they would be less likely to have more kids. In case they do, they would prefer getting an epidural regardless of their leanings previously. Postpartum PTSD can also make it less likely for new moms to go for follow-up medical care or provide their child with their breast milk. Breastfeeding also helps mothers bond with their babies, which is why postpartum PTSD indirectly makes it more likely for mother to have challenges bonding with their newborns. The lingering feelings can also make it difficult for a woman to continue with her marriage/relationship. Since postpartum PTSD often occurs in tandem with depression, the children of such mothers may also be in danger.

Prevention

Go through the list of causes and reasons that put new moms at higher risk of developing postpartum PTSD. It would seem that receiving the support they need from their loved ones might be an effective way of preventing postpartum PTSD. Other ways include getting treatment for antenatal depression and trauma in the past. Some preventive measures that will make new moms less prone to stress and help them cope include various types of health-promoting behaviors. An expectant mother should get plenty of sleep, balanced nutrition, and sufficient exercise. Listening to other women who have battled postpartum PTSD stories may also help new moms feel less lonely and their experience validated.

Importance of care

It is important for a new mom to receive the treatment she needs for Postpartum PTSD. For one, while postpartum depression is often diagnosed and treated, postpartum PTSD isn’t. That’s because a medical professional needs to ask the right question or the mom wouldn’t even know she has anything to report! As mentioned earlier, depression co-occurs with postpartum PTSD, this can also mean it opens the door to other disorders, such as early signs of Alzheimer’s. Treatment will improve the mental health of the new mom and help them find ways to connect with their child.

Caretakers & PTSD

People who are taking care of a mom who has developed postpartum PTSD might be surprised by the change it brings in them. You may find someone who loses her temper much more quickly and is irritable in a way she didn’t used to be earlier. Other women may become withdrawn and depressed instead. In such a situation, you may want to take the following measures to help them:

  • Do some reading on postpartum PTSD so you can learn about ways it is affecting them and know what they are going through
  • For caretakers who are related to or are in a relationship with a new mom with postpartum PTSD, matters are even more complicated. Even knowing that the withdrawal displayed by their partner or loved one is a symptom doesn’t guarantee that it won’t feel personal Recognize that avoidance and withdrawal are part of the disorder. Give them the room they need to heal and receive treatment. Let them know you will be there to support them
  • Listen to her if and when she feels ready to communicate. As mentioned before, being ignored or neglected during a painful and life-changing event is one of the main reasons why new moms can develop postpartum PTSD
  • It is completely okay to need help while going through this stage. Start seeing a therapist and see if that helps
  • Have a contingency plan in case the new mom begins to act violently. Keep yourself and your kids safe by removing yourselves from the premises
  • When they are expecting again, minimize the chances of recurrence of postpartum PTSD as best as you can. Consult their doctor for advice

Postpartum PTSD is a treatable condition that requires professional help and support from loved ones. Read more about this disorder and get a better understanding of MCI online by visiting Braintest.

ABOUT the author :

Alycia Gordan is a freelance writer who loves to read and write articles on healthcare technology, fitness and lifestyle. She is a tech junkie and divides her time between travel and writing. You can find her on Twitter: @meetalycia

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