Attorney at Law

About Birth Trauma

Daisy Rogozinsky
August 21, 2022

Birth trauma is one issue that can arise during childbirth with serious consequences. In this article, we’ll define the term birth trauma and explain how it relates to birth injury law. 

Key Takeaways

  • Birth trauma is post-traumatic stress disorder following childbirth
  • Birth trauma can happen to birthing parents, partners, family members, and midwives
  • Symptoms of birth trauma include flashbacks, anxiety attacks, hypervigilance, difficulty sleeping, and more
  • Birth trauma is usually caused by things that make a person feel unheard, disrespected, out of control, or fearful that something terrible like death may happen to them or their baby
  • Possible causes of birth trauma include unplanned Cesarean sections, stillbirth, very painful labor, induction, and more
  • When a healthcare professional’s negligence causes birth trauma, it is considered medical malpractice 

What Is Birth Trauma?

Birth trauma is a type of post-traumatic stress disorder that birthing people may experience after childbirth. Birth trauma can happen to the partners and midwives of a birthing person who has witnessed a traumatic birth, as well as to the birthing people themselves. There are many things that can lead to birth trauma including unplanned interventions, medical complications, or anything that leads to the fear that the birthing parent or the baby may not survive the delivery. 

Symptoms of Birth Trauma

There are several signs that a person may have experienced birth trauma, including:

  • Flashbacks, nightmares, or intrusive memories
  • Distress or panic
  • Avoiding anything that reminds one of the birth
  • Hypervigilance, alertness, irritability, or jumpiness
  • Worry, guilt, or blame
  • Anger 
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Overwhelm
  • Negative feelings about oneself or one’s ability to care for the child
  • Not eating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Suicidal thoughts 

What Causes Birth Trauma?

Certain events during childbirth are so terrible that they are inherently traumatic. However, people may also feel traumatized by less severe events if they cause feelings of loss of control, loss of dignity, hostility, not being heard, or a lack of informed consent.

Things that may lead to birth trauma include:

  • Stillbirth
  • High levels of medical intervention
  • Emergency cesarean section
  • Not being listened to
  • Lengthy labor
  • Very painful labor
  • Forceps or vacuum extractor births
  • Birth of a baby with a disability
  • A stay in the neonatal intensive care unit
  • Poor postnatal care
  • Previous trauma 
  • Fear for the baby's safety
  • Impersonal treatment or problems with staff attitudes
  • Poor pain relief
  • Feelings of loss of control
  • Lack of information or explanation
  • Induction
  • Lack of privacy and dignity
  • Cord wrapped around baby’s neck
  • Severe physical complications such as hemorrhaging, unplanned hysterectomy, or perineal tearing

Birth Trauma and Birth Injury Law

Much of the time, birth trauma is caused by a healthcare team that is disrespectful, fails to get the required informed consent, disregards the birthing parent’s desires, or otherwise behaves in a negligent way that does not meet the standard of care. When this type of behavior leads to birth trauma, it is considered medical malpractice. 

If you or a loved one experienced birth trauma due to the negligent conduct of healthcare professionals, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain and suffering. It is recommended that you speak to a birth injury lawyer who will be able to help guide you through the legal process the recover the compensation that you deserve.

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