Well, I am slowly resuming seeing clients after having my baby. Being a mom has been a wonderful (at times overwhelming) journey. One of the things it has really opened my eyes to is what a time of growth being pregnant is for both moms and dads. Childbirth can be an incredibly empowering experience. It can also be scary and traumatic due to the birth itself or because the process or pregnacy and delivery brings up unresolved issues related to trauma or sexual abuse.
It is not unusual for issues that you thought you had resolved to pop back up during new phases of life. For example-a woman who was sexually abused as a young child that goes to therapy as a young person may find she needs to return briefly to therapy when she begins dating, gets married, gets pregnant, or becomes a mom. It is almost as if you resolve the issue for who you are at that time but if a major shift in your personality happens you have to make sense of the issue all over again. Pregnancy, miscarriage, stillbirth, and labor & delivery are no different. The good news is that if you have dealt with these issues before you already have tools and experience with coping with them. And if this is the first time you are looking to come to counseling BECAUSE being pregnant or having a baby brought up feelings of trauma I can't think of a better way to care for yourself and your baby.
What might birth trauma look like? Typically re-experiencing memories (ie-"flashbacks"or nightmares) or trying very hard to avoid anything that might remind you of the trauma can be signs of trauma. The birth trauma association from England has a great website:
Understanding how a history of sexual abuse can affect pregnancy and labor and delivery is a bit trickier. There is a great book called "When Survivors Give Birth" by Penny Simkin and Phyllis Klaus. Pregnancy brings up feelings of being out of control, that your body is not your own, fears of authority figures, and of course physical feelings of vulnerability. These feelings can echo sexual abuse. Having a sensitive midwife or obstetrician that knows about your history of sexual abuse is important. Having a doula can also be a huge help. Therapy is also very helpful for both birth trauma and for sexual abuse survivors feeling apprehensive or having a strong reaction to a pregnancy.
I am currently getting additional training from Phyllis Klaus about how to use EMDR and psychotherapy to specifically address these issues. This training is in addition to my years of training and experience working with sexual abuse, trauma, PTSD, EMDR training and attachment psychology training. If you are interested in finding out how therapy might help please contact me for more information.