Birth Trauma (Postpartum PTSD) ~Dr. Katie Godfrey

Birth Trauma: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after Childbirth*

At The Catalyst Center we work to support women and their families during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum.  One of the areas in which we work is Birth Trauma.  It is reported that between 25% and 35% of mothers report experiencing a traumatic childbirth experience.  The causes of birth trauma include:

  • Medical Interventions, especially ones the mother feels were unnecessary
  • Lack of control during pregnancy and/or birth
  • Lack of support from partner and/or staff
  • Injuries experienced by mother or baby during childbirth

 Signs and Symptoms

Some women recover more quickly than others, physically and psychologically, while some find themselves struggling to move forward.  Typically the mothers who are struggling have symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Signs of Birth Trauma and PTSD include:

  • Weepiness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability and angry outbursts
  • Panic attacks
  • Nightmares about the birth
  • A desire to avoid the baby or anything relating to the birth
  • Feelings of detachment from loved ones
  • A sense that some other disaster is imminent
  • Physiological and psychological reactions to reminders of the birth
  • Flashbacks of birth experience
  • Lack of memory of birth experience
  • Fear of having subsequent children


 Try to not judge yourself.  Your feelings and reactions are normal for someone who as encountered trauma.  People may tell you, “As long as the baby is ok, you should feel fine about your birth experience”.  While they are trying to be helpful, please keep in mind that this just is not true.  Your birth experience matters!  As Barbara Katz Rothman said, “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers–strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.”  Here are some suggestions to start the healing process:

  • Do not judge yourself.  Remember: your feelings and reactions are a normal reaction to trauma
  • Get support from family and friends
  • Join a moms group
  • Find support online
  • Get help caring for baby
  • Give yourself time to heal
  • Create art
  • Write in a journal
  • Write letters to the hospital staff (you do not have to mail them)
  • Exercise
  • Therapy, including EMDR
  • Find places to talk about your birth story
  • Body work (massage, mani/pedi)
  • Write your birth story
  • Re-write your birth story as you wish it had happened
  • Skin-to-skin contact with baby
  • Talking to baby about what the two of you experienced
  • Obtain medical records so you know exactly what happened
  • Consider talking to your doctor about medication

You do not have to go through this alone.  If you or a loved one are struggling with Birth Trauma and PTSD, please contact The Catalyst Center.  Change Begins Today!

*Adapted from: Griebenow, Jennifer J (Winter 2006). Healing the Trauma: Entering Motherhood with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Midwifery Today Issue 80.

The Catalyst Center is here to help.  We offer individual, couple, and family therapy, as well as a Birth Circle where mothers can share birth stories.  Please contact us for more information by calling 720-675-7123 or emailing us at


Dr. Katie Godfrey is a therapist at The Catalyst Center. Her specialties include:

Ready to learn more or book your free initial consultation with Katie? Give The Catalyst Center a call at 720-675-7123.