Birth Trauma and Doula Care

One of the many reasons why I decided to become a doula is to help women avoid birth trauma. Birth trauma doesn't only occur when the newborn or mother require emergency or extended medical attention. In many cases of birth trauma, the newborn is healthy and thriving, and by current socio-cultural norms, a seemingly positive experience. The Birth Trauma Association,, lists the following risk factors for developing birth trauma, or postpartum post traumatic stress disorder:

Lengthy or short and very painful labor


Poor pain relief

Feelings of loss of control

High levels of medical intervention

Traumatic or emergency delivery

Impersonal treatment, or problems with the staff

Not being listened to

Lack of information or explanation

Lack of privacy or dignity

Fear for baby's safety

Baby's stay in special care nursery

Poor postnatal care

Previous trauma


Experiencing birth trauma can result in difficulty bonding with the baby, and the mother may actively avoid experiences that remind her of her trauma, such as gynecological care or resuming a sexual relationship with their spouse postpartum. Birth trauma can also go hand in hand with postpartum depression. Because birth trauma is so misunderstood, women may feel isolated and guilty.

Some of the benefits of professional doula care include enhancing the mother-infant bond, increasing the mother's satisfaction with her birth experience, decreasing the likelihood that interventions are used, decreasing the mother's emotional distress, and improving the spousal relationship. Doulas are trained in techniques to help speed labor if necessary, alleviate pain without drugs, improve patient-caregiver communication, preserve the laboring woman's privacy and dignity, and explain medical lingo in plain language. Having a doula present for your birth will not completely protect you from experiencing birth trauma, but it can certainly decrease the chances.

I know how beautiful and empowering birth can be. I also know that my experience was the exception, not the rule. I have heard stories of disappointing, distressing, and even horrible births from other women. And I became a doula to help other women have positive and fond memories of their children's birthdays and to be empowered and strengthened by the incredible experience of womanhood that is childbirth.

Joyce Dykema