In a great article in Psychology Today, Dr. Alana Siegel discusses the important issue of Post Traumatic Stress as a result of traumatic child birth.
For most people the term “birth trauma” brings to mind trauma to babies, but the Reproductive Justice Movement is helping to raise awareness of an insidious form of trauma that happens with great frequency: obstetric violence. This violence, in the form of psychological coercion (“I’ll call child service and take your baby if you don’t consent”), to verbal insults, to physical assault, is far too common in the American Maternity care system.
While well-meaning people respond to stories of birth trauma with “well, a healthy baby is all that matters,” Dr. Siegel’s article cuts to the heart of the problem: a healthy baby is great, but it isn’t all that matters. When mom’s not health, the family isn’t healthy.
PTSD related to child birth has short term negative outcomes such as an increase in post-partum depression, a decrease in mother-child bonding, and a (often) decrease in breast feeding. Long term consequences include women being unable (from physical trauma) or unwilling (from psychological trauma) to have more children.
Understanding that these things happen, and that they happen frequently, is the first step in stopping them. Most mothers, babies, and families depend on the maternity care industry, and its time the industry provided that care in a responsible and respectful way.
Thanks to Olga Khazan for this well-sourced and important piece!
Her article in the Atlantic brings up a great point about insurance companies. Rising deductibles are making birth even more expensive and saddling families with debt from day 1. (My daughter and I were each charged our full $2000 copay for her birth. With good insurance, my 2 day old got a bill. 😮)
Around the world, birth is free (in places with better outcomes than the US, so they’re not sacrificing on quality).
Interestingly,certified nurse midwives have better mother and child outcomes in hospitals and are much cheaper for insurance companies and families. But they’re the first on the chopping block when hospitals are losing money (which is also when c sections rates increase, especially when insurance companies reimburse cesareans at higher rates).
This is bad policy that’s hurting families.
I’m working now on a dataset the includes insurance policies and economic barriers to equal birth access.