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When the trauma of a difficult birth leaves mothers devastated, alone (centerforhealthjournalism.org)

 

While there has been extensive media coverage looking at the health risks faced by mothers before and after they gave birth, as well as the heavy toll of postpartum depression. But less remarked is the emotional trauma and devastation that mothers can face from a difficult labor and delivery.

These kinds of birth-related traumas may be far more common than realized: 18 percent of mothers report experiencing post-traumatic symptoms from childbirth, according to one estimate from the 2008 national Listening to Mothers survey.

Dr. Cheryl Beck, a professor at the University of Connecticut and a nurse-midwife by trade, is among a small group of researchers studying these traumatic births. “Oftentimes, the birth is considered a success by everyone else’s account,” she said. “Great Apgar scores for the baby. The mother had no major complications. And yet, we tend to neglect the mom’s perception.”

“However, for some women, the traumatic event was the lack of communication and empathy from their health care providers, the way they were treated during their labor and delivery,” Beck said. “Women felt that they were stripped of their dignity. As one woman in my study shared, ‘I am amazed that three and a half hours in the labor and delivery room could cause such utter destruction in my life. It truly was like being the victim of a violent crime or rape.’” 

A recent study found that in the United States, one in six women reported experiencing one or more types of mistreatment during labor. This number rises significantly for women of color, with 27% of low-income women of color reporting mistreatment, compared with 18% of low-income white women.

To read more of Elissa S. Lee's article, please click here.

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