Hello from the Make Birth Better Network. At heart our main aim is to reduce the prevalence of birth trauma. We are a new group of parents, professionals and peers working together to try to improve the maternity journey for everyone.
Make Birth Better was founded by Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist Dr Rebecca Moore and Perinatal Clinical Psychologist Dr Emma Svanberg. The Network brings together many voices to offer support and information to families and professionals and campaign for change.
We are joined by an amazingly passionate and varied group including parents with lived experience of birth trauma. We are medical professionals including obstetricians, psychiatrists, psychologists, Midwives, Health visitors, peer supporters, the Maternity Transformation Programme. We are representatives from NHS England, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists researchers and organisations such as the Positive Birth Movement, the Birth Trauma Association, Birthrights and AIMS.
Our website www.makebirthbetter.org provides a national free resource for parents, parents to be and professionals. This is a safe respectful space for women to tell their birth stories, and to share experiences from professionals and services.
But why does birth trauma even matter?
A difficult or traumatic birth occurs when a woman finds any part of her own birth distressing, overwhelming, and/or fearful. It is how you were made to feel during birth that matters, if something felt frightening, scary or out of control then that is your story.
Trauma at birth can be caused by a medical emergency such an emergency caesarean or a bleed, but just as commonly it arises due to the care we give to women in labour. Women tell us time and time at Make Birth Better that it is how they were spoken to that distressed them the most. This might be being patronized, or feeling staff were unkind or not listening to women’s concerns or wishes. Trauma is so often due to a lack of kindness.
30% of all women find some aspect of their birth traumatic, that’s over 150,000 women per year in the United Kingdom. I am always struck by what a huge number of women this is starting motherhood whilst also feeling some really difficult feelings and emotions.
Birth trauma is not usually well recognized or misdiagnosed as depression. At Make Birth Better we want women to be able to find rapid local support to discuss their birth as leaving birth trauma untreated in the long term can lead to long term issues both for mum and her family such as depression, anxiety, sexual difficulties or finding it hard to connect with baby.
How do I know if I had a traumatic birth?
Women after a birth trauma often feel they have a very variable mood from sad to angry to guilty to anxious. There is also a constant replaying of the birth and feeling that you cannot control these thoughts. You may be replaying your birth in your thoughts, in your dreams. You may have visual flashbacks of parts of the birth such as a doctors’ face, seeing the baby heart rate monitor change, or not hearing the bay cry after delivery.
You may often feel on edge all the time, restless and not able to relax and may worry something terrible is going to happen to their baby and so check on their baby all the time.
It is often hard to hear other pregnancy or birth stories or to see anything related to pregnant women or small babies. It might be hard to return to the hospital you gave birth in or you may avoid pregnant friends.
Sometimes these thoughts and feelings fade quite quickly but if they don’t and if these feelings are still there most days for most of the day at three or five months postnatal and/or are affecting day to day life then I would encourage women to seek some support.
What can help recover from a difficult birth?
The key is to tell your story to someone you feel safe with, a friend, partner, a diary (if you can write it but not speak the words perhaps), your G.P or Health Visitor or perhaps an online or face to face peer group.
At Make Birth Better we want women to feel listened to and that their birth story will be heard in full and without judgement. Many women will bury or dismiss their feelings and feel guilty about talking about a negative birth experience. Many women are never asked about their birth story and so these difficult feelings and emotions remain.
It is entirely possible to have a negative birth experience and still be a good mum and love your baby very much. We must allow women the space to think about and reflect on their birth. A healthy baby is not all that matters.
We are systematically mapping out local services regarding birth trauma. Have a look at the blogs from numerous professionals about the different types of treatment that might help support you in your recovery. Let us know via the social media contacts below if you know of a local service that has helped you and we will add this to the site. The site is a work in progress and we want it to be shaped and built by women and their families.