If you’ve confronted birth trauma or are dealing with it now, then you’re not alone. Learn more about how you can prevent it and about what you can do to begin healing.
I discuss birth trauma for moms and babies, so prevalent in the US and parts of the modern world, and how to prevent it, in greater depth on my free online masterclass. It is a must watch, as birth trauma is on the rise, effecting over 1/3 of women according to what has been reported - and many suffer silently - so how many go unreported? The numbers of people and lives this impacts are staggering.
Our Model of Conditioning
The model of pregnancy and birth we’ve been conditioned to believe in these past 100 years or so has grossly skewed a modern woman’s natural ability to give birth in a natural way.
In part one of this Birth Trauma series, I briefly explained how birth around the world was, since the beginning of time, widely seen as a normal part of life, and a celebration rather than the medical event that it is today in the U.S. and parts of the modern world. But, in moving births from the home into hospitals, we’ve since lost our intuitive response to birth as a natural process.
Our bodies know how to birth a baby—it’s the same way we’ve been doing it for 1000s of years before medical procedures and technology. So, a big part of preventing birth trauma would be a mindset shift—in fact, it’s a return to what we already know.
A first step in the gradual shift of your mind would be to forgive yourself the conditioning you’ve been taught to rely on—that you must hand over your body (and, essentially, your power) over to your doctor, hospital, modern medicine and technology.
We’ve been raised a certain way in this era of medical and technological advances. It’s not your fault! If there’s any trauma you’ve experienced or are experiencing now, it’s not your fault!
It might be worth asking your own parents, if you can, about the process of pregnancy and birth that they’d experienced in bringing you into the world. As you’ll inevitably learn with trauma, it is not simply forgotten.
Traumatic experiences can begin in the womb. Babies are born fully conscious. A baby in the womb feels whatever its momma feels - keeping a file, so to speak, of cellular memory within the subconscious. Traumatic birthing experiences, like the use of drugs to induce labor and numb pain, internal electrode probes screwed onto baby's scalp, forceps, C-section, immediate cord clamping, suctioning, rough handling, bright lights, separation from mom and being left alone in a nursery incubator etc., can be hard-wired into a deep memory base that you, as a now functioning adult, can’t even remember, let alone access!
Psychology news tells us that the more traumatic and hard-wired habits we’ve developed are because of experiences from before the age of 9. Imagine that: most of our decisions and personality today are based on our childhood and baby selves!
Therefore, the emotional component of pregnancy and birth needs to be honored even more so - as it impacts mom as well as baby. In the shift from home to hospital, birth became a medical and often, now a surgical event - sterile and almost emotionless, stripped of humanity. The huge psychological impact of childbirth on mom and baby is widely disregarded, and when care is given without this sensitivity, there is increased risk of birth trauma for them both.
A return to our emotions is essential in giving birth. Needless to say, this is supposed to be a time of love and honor and joy—when a birth is led with these feelings, the chances of it being successful, natural and healthy are that much higher.
A Return to Confidence
With this mindset shift comes a return to the confidence of knowing that we as healthy women, have a feminine capacity to grow, birth, and breastfeed our babies.
With confidence, you’ll feel more capable of taking on the responsibility of your pregnancy and outline what you want for your child’s birth—not what the medical system deems it should be or believes it is.
Confidence in pregnancy and birth comes from an understanding that women birth like they breathe - naturally. (You don’t have to teach your organs to function, your heart to pump blood, or your lungs to fill with air - they are brilliantly designed to do that without your involvement.)
But, this confidence is also best supported in a space where a woman can feel at peace and that she is being celebrated in a gentle and beautiful way.
If a woman is stressed, if she’s being monitored in a way that is invasive, where there’s poking and prodding—especially without consent—then, this woman is definitely not going to labor well and most definitely not as quickly or easily as she otherwise would. She’ll then need to be medicated to “get things moving” which will cause a faster and more intense labor, and that results in the need for pain relief medications.
Our current maternity care system’s disconnected and medical treatment of birth is what’s causing the need for more medical and surgical intervention and emergency situations in the first place; it leads into a cascade of further interventions and more serious problems like the high rates of maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality that plague the United States.
This is why a woman’s physical and mental and emotional state and space are so important in avoiding birth trauma. In a space where a woman feels respected and heard, she will feel safe enough to birth in a way that is natural and healthy for her and her baby.
This is why excellent childbirth education is a must, why planning for your birth is so important today, and is a major reason why I created my Love Your Birth course. It is a comprehensive online course that teaches women what they need to know about planning and carrying out the birth that they want in all settings - the hospital, birthing center or at home. It’s a course on how to have a holistic, healthy pregnancy for the body, mind, and soul - and is how I have guided thousands of women and their families in my midwifery practice for over 20 years. It contains a rolodex of my favorite resources with over 200 of the best books, movies and supplies I use personally and professionally with my clients, family & friends. Even diving into a fraction of this list will have you feeling empowered and prepared for conception, pregnancy, postpartum and parenting...It includes resources on improving and even ensuring ensuring healthier pregnancy and birth outcomes than the status quo, and preventing and healing from birth trauma so prevalent in the modern world! Be prepared to do some research on your own, but knowledge restores your power. I also help you prepare your mindset for such a task, to debunk myths, and to reframe any current ideas or conditioning about pregnancy and birth that can use a change in perspective or that are simply incorrect and do serve you. After finishing the course, the idea is that you are now able to create and have the healthy, beautiful and empowering pregnancy and birth that you want.
You can get a free nugget from my course - all about creating your ideal birth plan here. A huge part of preventing birth trauma is getting clear your birth preferences, knowing the pros and cons about all the tests and procedure, all the interventions your may be faced with, so you can make informed decisions - rather than simply give over your body, your choice and voice to your health care providers and institution you choose.
In looking for that supportive birthing space I talked about earlier, seek care providers and settings that have a low intervention rate (low rates of medical interventions like inductions and epidurals, low rates of cesareans, etc.)—their practices are more likely to be in line with your goals.
Hire a doula. What’s a Doula and Why I Recommend One
Birth, for most healthy women, is a normal process that needs no intervention but sensitive support and enouragement when all is well —the medical system does have its place (which we’ll get into later) but normal birth requires no invasion and therefore need not be traumatic whatsoever!
In fact, as a midwife, I’ve had women tell me not only that they feel proud of their labor and birth, but also, that they even feel in ecstasy with their experiences - even if intense and challenging.
A birthing woman should feel private, safe, sensual, gentle and undisturbed. The same vibration it took to get the baby in (the intimate, sensual, vulnerable and safe feelings involved in making love), is the same vibration needed to get the baby out.
Read a mom in my practice blog of her experience giving birth in this way: Birth Story - Sacred, Sensual, & Laughing Baby Out.
Acknowledgment, Validation, Support
Now that we have a sense of what it takes to put in place a birth free of trauma, how do we heal it if we’ve already experienced it?
Full healing is possible. I want you to feel that, imagine that for you, and know that it is true. I have not only felt it myself, but have witnessed it in countless others just like you, who have sought my guidance for their trauma healing in the last two decades.
The foundation of healing any sort of trauma is acknowledgment, validation, and support. If you need more personal guidance, let me know: Heal Your Birth Trauma
Acknowledgement and validation seem counterintuitive to our culture of suppression but don’t repress your feelings. Embrace every single one of them - joyful and mournful. Just as it is part of life to have light and dark, sun and rain, there is joy and pain. They are all sacred. Feeling all of your feelings makes way for the processing them, but also the allowance to trust them—yes, I said trust them! And healing is in the feeling and expressing emotions healthfully so they do not get stuck and cause physical and psychological health problems.
“Bad” feelings aren’t bad in and of themselves—and you certainly should not feel guilty for having them (that definitely doesn’t help create any path toward healing!). Bad feelings are actually guides toward helping you find what’s upsetting you, to find what’s imbalanced in your body. Your body is brilliant and does not lie. Our mind can make up all sorts of false stories, but your body tells the truth. It is wise to listen to its messages. In this way, holistic intervention looks a lot different than medical and surgical intervention.
As a midwife, holistic practices search through the painful feelings of birth trauma and look to see what are they telling us and what can be done to help relieve or remedy the root cause.
What can we change in terms of lifestyle habits that can help you cope with any of the feelings you're worried about? We look at how can we help your body, your mind, your heart heal. What is truly the soothing for all of who you are?
The idea is to listen to what’s really going on with you as a new momma. What are you eating and drinking? How are you sleeping? How can you get more quality sleep, eat foods and take supplements that support your well-being, and avoid what harms you?
Sometimes it simply goes back to needing that sense of support. We’ll look at perhaps you need extra help if feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you need more regular outings with a good friend and a cup of tea. It may help to join a support group of mothers who have experienced birth trauma and connect with those who have healed from it. One day you can be that mentor for another suffering momma.
Maybe you need a daily walk by yourself or to take a dance or yoga class. Maybe you simply need more time to yourself, to unplug and be outdoors in nature, and to ensure quiet moments where you’re simply breathing.
Maybe you need to feel and express certain emotions more deeply - can we do that through song and dance, listening to sad and/or angry songs, and then something uplifting and moving it through your body? I have been in many healing workshops of small groups to several thousands dancing the dark emotions as well as dancing the joy. You fully felt, expressed and moved through your emotions in childhood, so you can do it now, and music helps you remember how. I have over a thousand songs for this that I use myself and to help others. Here is a sample playlist to help you dance your 'dark' emotions.
My healing advice includes making sure you get a good laugh, a good cry, and a good hug every day!
Medical and surgical interventions have their place as I always say, and when they are needed, they are something for which to cultivate immense gratitude. In cases of high risk where the mother and/or baby are in real danger, these interventions can absolutely make all of the life saving difference. But, please take note that these situations are emergency or high risk situations and when it comes to normal and healthy pregnancies and births, pharmaceutical drugs and surgery should not be the norm. They usually cause more sproblems - especially when all is well; and even when there are issues, they do not result in true healing. What is needed is a more comprehensive holistic approach.
When there is severe postpartum depression and a mother’s feelings are so grave that she feels the need to harm herself or her baby, psychiatric care can be a complete necessity as part of larger healing regimen. When there is symptoms of depression, anxiety and other mental illness, I prefer to build the foundation and start with best selling author of A Mind of Your Own and integrative psychiatrist's Dr Kelly Brogan's natural and highly effective modalities - which is now also available as an online course.
Somatic Healing and Clarity Breathwork
According to decades of cutting edge research in trauma, we are learning that the best way to heal trauma is not necessarily through the traditional practice of cognitive and medical therapy but somatic therapy. You literally have to reset the nervous system wired to the trauma response, and to shake it off! This sounds trivial but the body, quite literally, physically stores its trauma and it can impact our health and well-being, and just about every aspect of our lives.
If you’ve ever noticed an animal shake itself as they all do, or a bird flap its wings profusely (usually after after a particularly intense situation for them), that’s because they are alleviating themselves of the initial and sudden stress that the situation created within their bodies. A deer in the wild, after escaping from a tiger and reaching safety, shakes off the trauma energy and resumes being in a calm state without carrying emotional baggage.
Babies, toddlers and young children authentically feel, express and move their emotions - joy, as well as sadness and anger in full blown temper tantrums, then get up and resume play. Cultural conditioning has caused many of us to shut down, tune out, repress, deny, escape from and numb our uncomfortable feelings.
When humans encounter the stress of an intense situation, the fight or flight response kicks in and we often hold our breath, or breathe more rapidly and shallow. Any emotion felt at the time is stored as trapped energy in the body. Think of a horror movie you’ve watched, when you’re suddenly surprised, scared or horrified, the typical reaction is to take a quick and sudden gasp, not to breathe slowly and deeply into your lungs and focus on inner peace.
We live in a society today that is in constant overdrive fight or flight mode without a means of release and reset; we are storing more and more stress energy in our bodies, and this one of the main causes of modern chronic physical and psychological illnesses.
A great way to begin the somatic healing process is by Clarity breathwork and this process is what truly helped me move through and out of my own birth traumas, even the trauma of childhood abuse and major adult stresses.
Clarity Breathwork is a powerful and effective modality that uses a specific type of breathing to release the trapped trauma energy and psychic pain that is stored in your body, without having to think or talk much about it. It allows your nervous system to reset to optimal original settings. It enables your body to more easily shake off whatever stress it’s been storing. It leaves you feeling an incredible and lasting relief. You will notice more ease, flow and joy in your life and relationships. It's healing effects are so profound, I had to become a practitioner myself and share the gold.
Whatever trauma you’ve felt or are feeling, please know that your pain is real, it’s not your fault, you are not alone, there is support and healing for you.
Every woman has the right to the pregnancy and birth that they’ve envisioned for themselves and their baby. A woman who is treated with a sense of respect and dignity and whose choices are honored will not only labor well but will be far less likely to look back on her birthing experience with a sense of guilt, shame, failure and deep emotional pain.
It is possible to have a return to Self and allow your body to experience pregnancy, birth, and life afterward in a safe, peaceful, sensual and passionate way. It is possible to get back your inner calm and joy. This is your right!
Was your birth upsetting or traumatic? Do you have more questions about processing your birth and need help healing? Arrange some time to chat with me. I’d love to answer your questions and help you heal and get yourself back - I have a program specifically got you, that can also include this revolutionary and last natural healing modality called Clarity Breathwork. Helping women heal from birth trauma is one of my passions and areas of expertise. I have officially published and prelaunched my first two books on Amazon on prevention and healing from trauma...and they both became #1 Bestsellers! They will be released in March, but feel free to check them out.
Natural Birth Secrets: An Insiders Guide How To Give Birth Holistically, Healthfully and Safely, and Love the Experience! Kindle Edition
by Anne Margolis CNM, MSN, Yoga Teacher, Clarity Breathwork Practitioner (Author)
Trauma Release Formula: The Revolutionary Step by Step Program for Eliminating Effects of Childhood Abuse, Trauma, Emotional Pain and Crippling Inner Stress, to Living in Joy without Drugs or Therapy Kindle Edition
by Anne Margolis CNM, MSN, Yoga Teacher, Clarity Breathwork Practitioner (Author)
If you are pregnant, learn to prevent birth trauma in the first place. Come join my FREE online masterclass, to learn all about Birth Trauma for moms and babies, so rampant in our country and parts of the modern world. Its called "Secrets To Holistically Healthy Joyful Birth Without Birth Trauma" Discover 5 simple but crucial things you can do right now to drastically reduce your risk! Sign up Here!
I have a holistic approach to life, including healing after pregnancy and birthing. Nothing replaces abdominal toning and exercise for restoring muscle strength and tone - which I encourage for all mamas as soon as they feel up to it postpartum. Nothing replaces touch, slow deep abdominal breathing, and a 'love your postpartum body' perspective that I promote. But I have found many mamas simply feel comforted by this support garment, especially early postpartum and temporarily as needed....to be used without forfeiting abdominal toning and strengthening exercise, breathing well and touch. I have found Bellefit supportive garments to help like they use belly binding around the world such as in Indonesia. They do aid in early postpartum healing and provide support many mamas feel comforted by. I deal with human beings and the reality is many postpartum mom's struggle with body image, feel frustrated that getting back to themselves takes longer than expected. Being into holistic health and healing includes being sensitive to real human struggles - the mind, body, heart and soul of each person and their unique situation. Having helped countless women with these issues after having a baby as a midwife, I have found many still love that binding and feel better with this support, and ability to fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes comfortably and sooner than they would if they went through a C-section or natural childbirth recovery without it - especially when they have to dress up and fit into a certain favorite outfit for a special occasion or wedding not long after having a baby. For more info on the Bellefit girdle, check out my blog about it here. Have a Great Postpartum Recovery (with a little help from Bellefit)! I am thrilled to announce that you get a $20 Off with code: ANNE20 at checkout - if you purchase here.