The Impact of Birth Trauma on Sexual Health
As a licenced sex therapist, I frequently work with clients who experienced birth trauma and struggle with intimacy and sexual wellness in the aftermath of that.
Trauma itself is a subjective experience. One woman might go through an emergency C Section and not find it traumatic. At the same time, another woman goes through the same experience and is deeply traumatized by that.
Birth trauma refers to emotional, psychological and physical distress caused by any unpredictable experience during pregnancy and birth. Examples of unpredictable experiences include experiences of premature labour, emergency C-section, traumatic medical intervention and anything causing fear of losing the baby.
Many women report symptoms similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after a traumatic birth.
Women find it challenging to talk about their traumatic birth, let alone seek help for it. Women are told they should be grateful that they had a healthy baby. This stigma leaves many feeling unentitled to tell their stories for fear of coming across as ungrateful. In addition, women fear causing their baby harm if they talk negatively about their birth. This fear can easily leave women in the worst conditions, feeling traumatised and now alone in dealing with their trauma.
How does birth trauma affect women?
Childbirth is a life-changing event that can affect a women’s sense of self, identity, perception of their body, and sexuality. In addition, it can alter their desire and connection with their partner. Many women are able to find their way back to their sexual self and reconnect with their own body, sexuality and their partner.
However, the distress caused by a traumatic birth can leave lasting physical, emotional and psychological scars on women. Women can suffer from painful sex as a result of birth trauma, as well as flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, anxiety, panic attacks, night terrors, depression, overall hypervigilance and feeling alert. They find their symptoms not subsiding regardless of how hard they try and how much time passes. This might lead to feeling guilt and shame for not having been able to move past their birthing experience.
What to do next?
In discussing birth trauma, we should not forget the women’s partners. They can experience trauma as well. Seeing loved ones experiencing pain, and emergency interventions and fearing losing them is deeply traumatic.
You can reclaim your intimacy and sexual wellness in the aftermath of birth trauma. In my capacity as a sex therapist, I am available to offer assistance and direction to individuals and couples as they navigate this time and strive for a more meaningful and gratifying sexual connection.
I wish you all the best.