Why might birth trauma occur?

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You hear it all the time. "As long as your baby is healthy, that's all that matters."

But it is not ALL that matters. It absolutely matters. And other things matter also. And women can be very glad that they and their baby are alive, and also feel disappointment and even psychological trauma about their births.

Because every birth is also a How We Met story.

It matters how we meet our babies. It also matters that mothers and babies are healthy, but getting from pregnant to postpartum alive is not every woman's ONLY goal. 

Psychologist Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs helps us understand why a healthy baby is not the only thing that matters in birth.

According to Maslow's theory, our human needs are ordered in a hierarchy. In order to meet our higher level needs, we must meet the lower level needs first. Being alive, and not in declining health, that healthy baby goal, is only meeting our physiological and safety needs. 

But How We Met is our Belongingness and Love tier. When a mother meets her baby for the first time, it is a momentous occasion that deserves respect and honor.

If we dissect traumatic birth accounts, we notice it is not strictly the medical circumstances of birth that cause trauma for the mother. Nor is it only women with abuse and trauma in her past who experience traumatic birth. Perfectly healthy women, with perfectly healthy babies, physically speaking, will later be diagnosed with PTSD from their birth experience. 

The thread that ties all of their stories together is how they were treated during birth. It is not all horrible medical care either. For many women, they have kind respectful caregivers who unknowingly trigger past trauma from an abusive past. Whatever the reason she feels mistreated during childbirth, her need to belong and be loved has not been met, and in many cases, her need to feel safe has been violated as well.

This blog post is my opinion only. My opinions are a work in progress, as I hope yours are as well. This comes from speaking with dear friends and clients about their own journeys through birth trauma, and what they have learned about trauma and about themselves.


Joyce Dykema