Understanding Postnatal PTSD after a Birth Injury

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is classified as a prolonged reaction to a situation or event causing intense stress, including childbirth.  In this article titled “Understanding Postnatal PTSD after a Birth Injury”, we will provide parents and families with information about the prevalence of PTSD, what causes it, how it is treated, and how it can affect your life.

How Common is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD is far more common than most people realize.  In general, PTSD can affect anyone of any age, race, gender, or ethnicity.  Overall, it is more common among women, but there are a lot of men who also suffer from the disorder.  The non-profit support group PTSD United offers the following statistics about PTSD:

  • About 223.4 million (70 percent) Americans experience at least one traumatic event in their lives. Of those, roughly 20 percent will develop PTSD.
  • At any given time, it is estimated that 8 percent of Americans are currently suffering from PTSD. That equates to 24.4 million people, or roughly the population size of Texas.
  • One in nine women are estimated to develop PTSD, a rate twice as high as men.
  • Anxiety disorders among Americans, including PTSD, are estimated to cost $42.3 billion every year.

While these statistics provide general information about PTSD, they clearly show that women are more susceptible to the disorder.  This trend is mirrored by medical estimates suggesting that 1-21 percent of all women suffer from postnatal PTSD related to childbirth.  Nearly 50 percent of women state that they experienced some form of trauma during the childbirth  process, but not all will develop PTSD.

What Causes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Postnatal PTSD after a Birth Injury

For parents dealing with a complicated pregnancy, birth, or birth injury situation, postnatal PTSD is a very real concern.  Some of the most common factors that may contribute to postnatal PTSD include:

  • Prenatal history of anxiety or depression
  • Anxiety or depression during pregnancy or childbirth
  • Emotional crises during pregnancy
  • Threat of miscarriage
  • Fear of childbirth
  • Difficult or complicated childbirth
  • Emergent childbirth experience resulting in cesarean section (c-section) or use of assistive tools (vacuum, forceps, etc.)
  • Injury to the mother or child during labor or delivery

It is important to remember that PTSD can occur in the mother, partner, other children, or other family members directly involved in, or witnessing, the traumatic event.

If you or your child was injured due to medical malpractice or negligence, the risk of developing PTSD may be even greater.  Contact Birth Injury Guide to talk to an attorney about what you can do to protect yourself and your family after a traumatic childbirth experience.

What are the Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

PTSD affects suffers in different ways, but in most every case, the symptoms move outside the general symptoms of anxiety or depression.  Symptoms of PTSD are commonly broken down into three categories, which are:

  • Intrusion – Presence of vivid, unwelcome memories of the traumatic event, flashbacks, nightmares, and troubled associations.
  • Avoidance/Numbing – Refers to the conscious avoidance of triggers or situations in which the trauma may be recalled. Avoidance may also include development of a “shell”, used to avoid reacting to triggers.
  • Overreacting/Hyperarousal – Refers to the development of strong symptoms of emotional or mental arousal, including difficulty sleeping, irritability, or intense emotional responses.

Other symptoms may include detachment, fear of a shortened future, mood swings, and psychological distress.  Specific to women, many women with postnatal PTSD also have symptoms associated with postpartum depressive disorders, though the two conditions are distinct.

How is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Treated?

Treatment options for PTSD largely depend on the individual situation.  Factors that go into the treatment design process include the overall health of the patient, medical and mental history, current medication list, and degree of severity of PTSD.  Depending on these (and other) factors, some of the most common treatment methods include:

  • Watch-and-wait for patients with mild PTSD, whose symptoms are likely to resolve on their own
  • Support groups or counseling
  • Psychotherapy
  • Antidepressant medications

Because the symptoms of PTSD often cross over into other disorders, it is important to talk to your doctor(s) about your symptoms, obtain a firm diagnosis, and work together to determine what treatment options work best for you.

How Does Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Affect Life?

PTSD can have a dramatic effect on the life of the sufferer and his or her family.  It can affect relationships, ability to work or attend school, socialization, and overall quality of life.  It is important that individuals with symptoms associated with PTSD get medical and mental healthcare as soon as possible.  PTSD often does not go away on its own, and may require continued, or even long-term care.

Without proper diagnosis and treatment, PTSD can spiral out of control.  People with PTSD may be more likely to engage in substance or alcohol abuse, and are more susceptible to developing depression or anxiety disorders.  Even though it can be difficult to discuss your feelings and situation, it is important to take action and get help.

Getting Help after a Birth Injury, Medical Malpractice, or Negligence

If you or someone you love is suffering from postnatal PTSD triggered by a birth injury, medical malpractice, or negligence, you may also find it helpful to speak to an attorney to get the legal support your family needs.  Medical malpractice or negligence during pregnancy, labor, and delivery is not only devastating, it is also a violation of your rights.

At Birth Injury Guide, we understand the delicate nature of birth injury cases.  Our attorneys are dedicated to protecting your legal rights with compassion and integrity.  Contact our office today to schedule a free case review, and learn more about your rights and legal options.  Fill out our online form to get started.

Meagan Cline

Written By Meagan Cline

Meagan Cline is a professional legal researcher and writer. She lends her expertise to the team at Birth Injury Guide to provide up-to-date and relevant content that clients can count on.