Labour and birth can be a wonderful experience, but sadly that’s not always the case. Some women will suffer from birth trauma, for all sorts of different reasons.

It’s not only very complex and difficult births that can cause birth trauma – even births that are considered “textbook” can cause feelings of trauma and anxiety. You might have had a very different birth to the one you’d imagined, and this in itself can be traumatic.

Whether your birth was long or short, vaginal or caesarean, instrumental in theatre or a home water birth, your feelings about your birth are completely valid. It might be just one aspect of your birth experience that’s playing on your mind and causing you distress, or you might feel traumatised by the whole experience.

If you think you might be suffering from birth trauma, there is support available for you.

As part of your postnatal care package, every woman will be offered space to reflect on their pregnancy, birth and postnatal experience with their midwife. This will happen around 28 days after the birth, before your care is handed over to your health visitor.

You can also arrange a birth discussion or birth afterthoughts session at any time after your birth. This will give you the opportunity to go through your notes with a midwife, so that you can fully understand what has happened and ask any questions. If needed, you’ll be given information on accessing further support.

To arrange a session:

  • East Dorset (Poole and Bournemouth): Your midwife will give you a card explaining how to access further support

  • West Dorset: You can call 01305 254223 to arrange a birth discussion at any time after your birth – these are usually held in your home

You can also speak to your health visitor or general practitioner (GP) about accessing additional support, and you can self-refer for talking therapy from Steps 2 Wellbeing. Difficult births can be traumatic for partners too – if your partner is struggling, self-referring to Steps 2 Wellbeing or speaking to their GP is a good place to start.

After a traumatic birth, some women suffer from secondary tokophobia – a fear of childbirth in a second or subsequent pregnancy. If you have a had a traumatic birth experience and are hoping to have more children, it’s a good idea to seek pre-conception support from your GP. If you are already pregnant, it’s important to tell your midwife how you’re feeling so that they can arrange appropriate support for you.

The Birth Trauma Association offer help and support to women who are struggling with their mental health as a result of their birth experience. Wessex Healthier Together also has information about birth trauma and the available support in the area.