2 years ago when I found out I was pregnant with my 2nd daughter, I had no idea about Birth Trauma or what an OASI was (more on that later) & I wish that I had of known because I would have been more prepared & possibly not now be suffering with PTSD!
Everyone always asks you how your birth was, did you have any pain relief, how long was your labour? & then they move on to your baby – they completely forget about you & how you are feeling. Becoming a mummy to a newborn is hard whether it is your first, second or third time but when things don’t go smoothly during the birth it makes everything so much harder to cope with.
With my first it wasn’t a smooth sailing birth as I ended up in theatre with an assisted forceps delivery & I have to say looking back it was fairly traumatic but I didn’t think anymore of it until I was pregnant again. Nearing my due date I started to feel anxious about the birth & it happening again so I booked in with Jen Cross at Love Hypnobirthing & More for a session to help ease my worries & prepare for the arrival of my little one, it helped massively & I was ready.
The hypnobirthing techniques helped me in the week before I gave birth as my labour was on/off before my waters broke & once in established labour it really helped me manage the pain, but things didn’t go smoothly again & I went from gently crowning my baby’s head to being folded in half with my knees pushed to my chest (McRoberts manoeuvre) to force her out because her shoulder was stuck (shoulder dystocia), as if the panic from that wasn’t traumatic enough I was then prodded & poked by numerous midwives & consultants to assess the damage I had from doing the manoevre.
At the time, I was just grateful my baby was here & pretty much said just do what you need to do to repair the damage, – completely unaware of how extensive it was. After over an hour in surgery to repair a 3c tear, I was discharged that day thinking all I had was a few stitches. I wasn’t told that my tear had caused an Obstetric Anal Sphincter Injury (OASI) which would leave me with life long damage & issues. By day 3, I was in so much pain I could hardly crawl up the stairs let along walk & I ended up being housebound for 3 months & bed bound for the majority of that time.
In the matter of 6 months I attended 10 different hospital appointments & each time I visited I discovered more information of how bad the damage was. My physical recovery took months, I was in pain daily relying heavily on pain relief & my whole body was weak from not being able to live a normal life plus I was then having to learn to live the issues I am left with from the damage such as nerve damage, urgency & a rectocele.
Being a person always on the go, it isn’t surprising that my mental health wasn’t great being stuck at home & in pain for so long but it was a lot more than the ‘baby blues’. I was waking up 6-7 times a night in a complete panic thinking my daughter had stopped breathing next to me & this wasn’t just the usual mum checking, I was in such a panic I couldn’t think clearly & would have to scoop her up & wake her to hear he cry to be able to stop panicking. I also couldn’t cope with any constant noise – crying, screaming, loud tv etc & things like attending medical appointments, going to toddler groups & seeing pregnant woman or hearing/watching birth stories just triggered me, sending my anxiety through the roof & I couldn’t cope.
My health visitor picked up on this & recommended that I got in touch with a charity called ‘The Birth Trauma Association’ they have an amazing support group on Facebook which is full of woman that have suffered traumatic births & there is always someone there for support when you need it. It is great to have people who understand exactly how I feel too & it was with their help that I referred myself to my local NHS Wellbeing service to get help. I received sessions of EMDR which then went to CBT due to lockdown which has helped ease my PTSD but I still suffer with it.
From the Birth Trauma group I also found out about the Birth Tear Support Group for Severe Birth Tears & again having people that understand & are in similar situations has been a massive support for me.
From being part of these support groups, it is shocking how many people in the UK & all over the world suffer with either birth trauma, an OASI or both. If you are have or are suffering & would like to reach out for support, please contact one of the organisations below or feel free to reach out to me.
Birth Trauma Association – https://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/
Birth Trauma Association Facebook Support Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheBTA
MASIC (Mothers with Anal Sphincter Injuries in Childbirth) https://masic.org.uk/
Birth Tears Support Group for Severe Tears – https://www.facebook.com/groups/506595522875980
NHS Self Referral for Psychological Therapies – https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-psychological-therapies-service/
Birth Trauma Awareness Week – 7th – 13th September 2020
World OASI Awareness Week – 7th – 13th September 2020
Written 8th September 2020 – Karen Sidell