Single and complex birth trauma

Birth Trauma is often mistakenly described as though single incidents explain the patterns of trauma presentations which occur in very different individuals.

Single incident birth trauma; a single emergency, even terrifying in the moments which follow, can be treated in a session or two. When multiple incidents of trauma have occurred in a woman’s past, a complex trauma response to birth is much more likely. While trauma and a life history of difficult events can be a force that strengthens character, it can equally create a vulnerable network of historical coping mechanisms that make a person more vulnerable in new situations.

Complex trauma is named aptly. Yet it has patterns that are detectable in therapy. The mind finds a way of managing very quickly when a person becomes afraid. It doesn’t search the whole bank of experience, but somehow pattern matches a part of this new fearful place with another.

A woman may not wish to disclose a whole world of pain in the mental health assessment which proceeds therapeutic interventions. Equally she may not know that bullying in primary school or a painful sexual experience or an almost drowning as a toddler could be relevant to the fear, depression, nightmares or anxious thoughts which form her psychological presentation after a traumatic birth experience.

Curiosity and faith are the therapists’ friends. If we are ‘still’ with our clients when the primary trauma experience has been worked through and settled, the complex pattern most often emerges spontaneously. Working safely here is paramount; knowing what is useful, where it is unwise to tread, or how to settle and quieten responses too complex for this season.

lev 5

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