Can partners experience birth trauma too?
YES. Witnessing a difficult or traumatic childbirth can affect you as dad/partner.
This can range from distress and overwhelm to symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
What can contribute:
- High medical intervention
- Long or very fast labour
- Feeling helpless or loss of control during the birth
- Not feeling heard
- Fear for mother or baby’s safety
- Emergency delivery
- Feeling more like a spectator/observer than a participant
What to watch for:
- Intrusive images from the labour, birth or postpartum
- Flashbacks, nightmares, dreams of the event
- Disconnect with baby or mother
- Difficulty with sex or intimacy
- Sleep problems
- Irritability, anger, sadness, difficulty concentrating
- Re-playing the birth over in your mind, or blocking it out completely
- Sense of fear related to birth, hospitals, your baby, etc.
- Negative beliefs (about self) or guilt related to the birth
What to do:
- Find a way to tell a version of the birth story in a way that you are comfortable with when people ask (helpful to prevent re-traumatization).
- It may be helpful to have a conversation with the medical professionals to help provide answers to unanswered questions.
- Know that trauma from childbirth is real, and it is okay to seek help.
- Talk to a therapist who has knowledge in the area of childbirth trauma or trauma. Your EAP provider through work may be able to assist.
- Connect online if you cannot seek counselling. (http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/fathers.htm)