How to Deal with a Difficult/ Traumatic Birth

photo credit Alex Hockett

photo credit Alex Hockett

Despite careful preparation, birth doesn't always go well. If you have had a difficult or traumatic experience, it's important to get help and support.

Birth trauma is common, affecting at least 25-35% of all women after birth.

Symptoms of birth trauma include:

  • flashbacks

  • hypervigilance

  • avoiding things that remind you of the birth

  • difficulties with mood, concentration

  • heightened emotions such as anger, fear, sadness and guilt.

  • breastfeeding or bonding issues.

Everyone is different so what is traumatic to one person may not be to another. Trauma might be related to the type of birth, e.g. induction or instrumental delivery. It might be related to not being heard or not feeling supported or having too many people in the birthing space. Not having the birth experience you expected, not having adequate pain relief and issues with recovery can all be linked to trauma.

Birth memories last a long time, and skilled care can help to heal mentally and physically from challenging experiences. 

Things you can do for yourself: 

  1. Journal about your experiences. Journalling is a way to tell your story and express your feelings. Find a quiet place, grab some paper and a pen and let yourself flow. Writing prompts to help you get going include 'what I didn't expect was...', 'I remember', 'I felt'.

  2. Get good support. Trauma states are heightened with stress, and taking care of a new baby whilst recovering from birth requires support. Make sure you get help with meals and tending to your baby.

  3. Prioritise stress management. Tools such as meditation, yoga nidra, naps and fresh air can be all be helpful strategies.


  1. Contact Birth Trauma Resolution to find a practitioner of the Rewind Technique.

  2. Birth Trauma Association

  3. Speak to your GP and ask to be referred for counselling.

  4. See a bodyworker such as an osteopath, cranial osteopath, craniosacral therapist or zero balancer. Addressing trauma on a body level can go deeper than talking therapies alone.

  5. Try a TRE (trauma release exercise) class.

  6. Explore the ‘3 Step Programme’

  7. Check out the free Facebook group ‘Birth Reflections’