Posted on 20 December 2018
Things have recently changed, and at last women who suffer mental health problems following a traumatic birth are starting to get more help. Post-natal PTSD or birth trauma is beginning to be recognised, understood and talked about. I have been seeing clients, predominantly women, for birth trauma at my Harley Street hypnotherapy clinic for many years now but I am always aware that behind many of the women who I help, there is also a partner who is suffering as well.
Although the physical effects of a traumatic birth will be worse for women, their partners, whether male or female, can suffer as much mental trauma, and sometimes even more.
I believe I understand why partners can suffer so badly. A lot of the problems for both the woman giving birth and their partners can stem from a perception of lack of control during the birth process. My clients often remember not understanding what was happening to them, feeling powerless, lost and abandoned. Being surrounded by medical teams who were rushing about doing important things which the woman giving birth didn’t understand. For that woman’s partner their feeling of loss of control, not being listened to and not understanding what is going on, can be even worse. On top of that, the feeling of powerlessness can also include guilt and distress because they are failing to protect their partner. They see the person they love in pain, in distress and afraid and they can feel guilt that they cannot act to stop this.
As I mentioned before, I see mainly women who have given birth but I do see their partners as well and I am pleased to say I am seeing more partners. I am pleased because it shows people are beginning to discover that there is help out there.
I do notice that guilt is often what brings clients to seek hypnotherapy for birth trauma. A man who came to see me a couple of months ago put it like this: ‘I have always felt responsible for the people in my life. I like to know I can help. This was unbearable. It was the time I should have been helping most and I felt utterly helpless.’ I helped this lovely man in just three sessions. We went into his background to explore why he felt so strongly that he had to look after others. This went deep, it was to do with the ideas he had absorbed when he was very young, when he and his siblings were somewhat neglected.
I helped him to realise that this belief was not useful to him at a very high level and over a short time we were able to adapt it to something more effective both for him and also those around him. We also worked directly on the trauma he was suffering. By using eye movement techniques and emotional freedom technique (tapping) he was able to deal with the memories of his wife’s traumatic birth experience.
This was a success. And with the vast majority of these cases we can achieve success but the problem is getting partners, especially men to ask for help in the first place.
It was great, therefore to see that NHS England is doing something. It has announced that new fathers and fathers—to-be will be offered mental health checks if their partner has post-natal depression or other mental problems following or leading up to birth.
As the NHS says, one in 10 men are thought to experience anxiety or depression in the first six months after the birth of their baby.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national mental health director, said that any form of mental ill health during pregnancy, labour or early parenthood was a huge concern. “It doesn’t just disrupt life for mums but also for dads, partners and the wider family. The NHS has made huge strides forward in improving mental health care for new mums, and ensuring their partners are properly supported too is the next logical step,” she said.
NHS England is to offer behavioural therapy and other talking therapies often in a group setting. I believe this can start to be a real help. But for some it will not be enough and I would like to see these people being able to access other types of help as well.
There are two reasons I say this. Firstly, individual help is often the best way to solve the problem. This is because we each have our own histories, our own belief systems and our own ways of coping, or not coping, when we hit difficult times. To help people over this it is often necessary to get to understand what their individual coping mechanisms are. If these mechanisms are not working, then targeted work which changes these particular mechanisms is the way forward. This can only be done on an individual level.
Secondly, talking therapies are very useful but, when we are dealing with certain sorts of mental anguish, they may not be the most effective treatment. One clear example is where someone is suffering from post-traumatic stress. We have learned so much about how we process and hold memories over the past few years that we now have new and highly effective techniques to offer. We know that working with eye movements can shift and detoxify painful and intrusive memories for example.
I would love to be a part of spreading this message. If anyone in the NHS working in this area would like to get in touch with me, perhaps we can begin to introduce these excellent, quick-acting and clinically-evidenced practices to more people. I know, as well as the NHS there are a number of charities which do excellent work in the area of supporting new parents who may be having difficulties. I would make the same overture to them.
We do have the tools to overcome many of these problems, so let’s start using them more widely.
And if you have suffered personally then contact me I am sure I can help you, usually in just a few sessions.
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