Posted on 23 February 2017
I hope, as the profile of post-natal PTSD starts to rise that it becomes easier to find the help you need if you have suffered following the birth of your baby. Slowly but surely, more professionals are taking the issue seriously and developing ways of helping. Working as a trauma hypnotherapist in London’s Harley Street, I have noticed more women coming to see me for help with this issue.
This is great, but if you are trying to get help it can be a bit confusing. Yoga, meditation, journaling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, EFT, EDMR. This list of possible treatments is long and you might be wondering what would work for you. I thought it would be useful to give a quick run through of the sort of help that is out there.
Some women do manage to overcome the trauma of a difficult birth with support of family and close friends and self-care. Mindful meditation, relaxation techniques, life-affirming hobbies such as writing, crafts, music or painting can help. Getting more information to find out what happened can be a benefit, some women even go a stage beyond this and use their experience to campaign for better maternity services.
Yoga and guided relaxation techniques, often done in a group setting, can also be helpful as can the support from others who are in a similar situation.
But for many women this is not enough and they need professional help. If you visit your GP, you are likely to be offered drugs rather than therapy. This can provide a welcome break from the emotional pain for many women, and give them the space to consider what to do next, but drugs can also have undesirable side effects. Taking medication is often only a quick fix, it does not address the underlying issues of emotional pain and can just suppress symptoms, such as flashbacks and intrusive memories which can return after the medication is stopped.
If your GP does recommend a therapy it is likely to be Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This has been found to be a safe therapy, but it seems to be effective in only 50% of cases.
Newer, but with increasing evidence of its efficacy, is the therapy known as Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprogramming (EMDR). This is a targeted therapy which helps to process painful memories so they no longer cause problems. (In PTSD problems arise as during a traumatic experience the memory system goes awry and the memories are not ‘filed’ in the memory banks, leading to the experience being constantly re-lived or remembered in a vivid and intrusive way). A related therapy, and one which I use and prefer, is EMI or Eye Movement Integration, which helps utilise all the areas of the brain to change hoe a client processes painful and traumatic memories.
It is important that, whatever therapy or intervention you choose, you find a professional who understands the particular issues around post-natal PTSD. It is still too common to confuse post-natal PTSD with post-natal depression, and although post-natal PTSD can lead to depression if it is not treated, the two illnesses are different and need different treatments.
Choose a practitioner who will offer treatment which is targeted for you. The way you experience your trauma will be determined by your own experiences and how you understand the world. For example, many women with post-natal PTSD feel guilty about their feelings. But the form the guilt will take will be filtered through their individual experiences. I have clients saying things such as:
Often, women experiencing post-natal PTSD tell themselves off, ‘I should get over this,’ they say.
All these are common reactions, mediated by the way you understand the world. The sort of trauma hypnotherapy I offer in Henley-on-Thames and Harley Street will help you get to the bottom of how you experience trauma and help you to overcome it.
Whatever story is running through your head it is important that you value your own feelings. This can be easier said than done, as it is very common for women to find their trauma is downplayed by friends, relatives and even health professionals. ‘At least the baby is healthy,’ can be a common dismissal of a mother’s fear, pain and ongoing symptoms. If you are experiencing trauma you have every right to do something about it. If you had been in a car crash and were experiencing post-traumatic stress, no-one would say ‘well at least the passengers are okay’.
I hope this blog post has helped you decide what is best for you to heal. If you want to see me then contact me at any time.
As regular readers of this blog will know I am on a mission to get the world to realise how common post-natal PTSD is. So, I want to thank Australian ex-soldier El Rowland.
El is well-known in Australia as a former contestant in the reality TV show Survivor. She says, “I suffered immensely with PTSD, panic attacks and depression following the birth of my baby boy Darcy . . . I lost all my identity, hope and didn’t know who I was anymore.”
El did recover and has gone on to set up a charity to help homeless veterans and a support group to help young women.
Thank you El for being such an inspiration.
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