Childbirth is freaking painful. All those watermelon/donut hole analogies exist for a reason. But is having a baby actually traumatizing in the way that terrorist attacks and car accidents are traumatizing?
A Tel Aviv University researcher named Rael Strous thinks so. According to the study published in the Israel Medical Association Journal, as many as one third of all new moms showed some symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with a smaller percentage developing "full-blown PTSD" in the days after giving birth.
Interestingly, the majority of those women experiencing PTSD symptoms had opted for natural childbirth without pain relief.
Ok, so it may not be as spontaneous as a terrorist attack or car accident, but as Strous and his colleagues discovered, childbirth is no less horrific and still poses "a very real and justified fear of danger, as expectant mothers worry for not just their own safety but also for the health and well-being of their babies."
PTSD symptoms include flashbacks of labour, refusal to discuss the birth or even the prospect of having another child, as well as physical reactions, including heart palpitations.
Surprisingly, female support during labour—be it from a midwife or doula— -- had virtually no impact on diminishing the trauma.
And for many women, a contributing factor in PTSD had to do with being exposed for a long period of time.
"Dignity is a factor that should be taken into account," said Strous. "It's an issue of ethics and professionalism, and now we can see that it does have physical and psychological ramifications."
As someone who had an all-natural water birth, I certainly felt proud of what my body had achieved. It was a gruelling and primal marathon, and luckily I was running on such adrenaline that I didn't register the extent of the trauma until I "came down" much later.
Did you find childbirth traumatic? Why/why not?