No control and no way out - an exploration of birth trauma and its effects

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Hackett, Lorraine
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Childbirth in Ireland has become a medical process over the course of the last century, in order to lower maternal and infant mortality rates, and great success has been enjoyed in this objective. However, within this era of safety, little consideration has been given to the mental health, inclusive of the emotional processes of the woman giving birth. This research is an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of three semi-structured interviews with women who have had a traumatic birth experience. The work seeks to identify patterns in these stories which allow for an understanding of factors which may contribute to birth trauma. The work also seeks to understand the process by which women are impacted, both shortly after the event and in the long term, by a negative birth experience. It seeks to understand the extent to which this can be classified within conventional trauma understandings. The work presumes a psychodynamic psychotherapeutic context to birth trauma, as well as to understanding the processes personal to a victim of the phenomenon. In this context, work on anxiety and trauma by psychodynamic psychotherapists provides a foundation for understanding the systems at play. In addition, a look at studies which deal with women who have experienced birth trauma allows for this research to incorporate with the current work in existence within the space. This research concludes that there are factors which determine a birth experience as traumatic. Further, there exist means for women to overcome this experience with relatively benign after-effect. However, this after-effect, though not immediately as impactful as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), does create a feeling of loss within a woman. Thus, there is a conclusion that birth trauma and PTSD, though closely linked in symptomology, often do not share common successful treatments and are not, therefore, as enmeshed as they are currently perceived to be. This research concludes that further exploration of the area of birth trauma, its processing and its treatments, would be welcomed. Author keywords: Birth trauma, psychotherapy, PTSD, trauma