According to many midwives, there has been an increase in women who are experiencing trauma and stress with the births of their first children. The trauma is happening at such an increasing rate, it is causing many women to postpone having a second child or opt for surgery in order to avoid the same experiences.
The NHS has begun setting up support services that specialize in dealing with women who have experienced birth trauma. The rates of these incidents seem to be increasing among many women, according to midwives in the UK. Because of the traumatic events, many women are requesting elective cesarean sections to avoid the risk of emotional or physical trauma that has happened with their first births.
At some hospitals, the rate of requests for an elective cesarean has increased by 40 percent. Many women seem to be experiencing fear at the thought of giving birth vaginally.
“Tocophobia [fear of childbirth] is a distressing psychological disorder that is growing at an alarming rate,” said Simon Mehigan, a consultant midwife at the hospital. Most of the women with birth trauma he works with “are so fearful about giving birth for the second or third time that they are making themselves unwell”.
In response to the growing trend, many hospitals are offering counseling services for women who feel that their birth experiences were traumatic in some way. Though there are no official statistics on this trend, there have been enough reports of the problem to cause hospitals to step up and try to counter the issue.
According to Dr Tracey Johnstone, a consultant in foetal maternal medicine at Birmingham Women’s hospital, part of the problem is the media’s portrayal of childbirth as excruciatingly painful. Childbirth in many movies and television shows is seen as something extremely painful and frightening, which gives women who have little experience with birth the impression that it truly is that way.
“Women are more frightened of labour and delivery now. Among women there almost seems to be a competition about who has suffered the most during childbirth, talking about 18-hour labours and the like, and that scares other women before they have their babies,” said Johnstone.
However, Cathy Warwick, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives, feels that it is a lack of support that can cause this fear in women. With an increasing birthrate, there are simply not enough midwives to offer support and care for women. Many pregnant women feel afraid because they do not have comforting support to guide them through the experience of childbirth.
Warwick said, “There is a worry that, with the increasing birthrate, there are just not enough midwives. If women don’t have support throughout their labours, then they are more likely to feel they have been let down and left alone, and had too little information and explanation, so are more likely to end up feeling traumatised.”
Whatever the cause, the Birth Trauma Association has seen an increase in women contacting them after childbirth with feelings of trauma from their experience. According to BTA, at least 30 percent of women feel their birth was a traumatic event. Because of this, the Better Births Centre at Liverpool University. has begun researching women who have been traumatized during their births.
“It’s the individual traumatic experiences of these women that have led to them suffering tocophobia”, said the lead researcher, Professor Susan Wray.
“We’re looking into why some births become complicated and traumatic. That could be because the foetus became distressed due to lack of oxygen, or because the baby couldn’t be delivered because the uterus seemed to run out of energy, or women not always having the support they need during long labours,” said Wray.
Understanding why so many women feel trauma after childbirth, and why there is an increasing fear among women toward childbirth, is vitally important. Experiences such as this can negatively affect women’s mental and emotional well being, as well as cause many to hesitate before having more children. – Summer, Staff Writer
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