Childbirth: The Good and the Traumatic

Childbirth: The Good and the Traumatic


It’s really common to be apprehensive towards the end of your pregnancy regarding what will happen during labour. You do your birth plan, and hope things will work out ideally. You might have clear ideas on what you do and don’t want to happen. There are actually many more factors involved that determine a positive birth experience. The World Health Organisation [1] has identified the following variables as important for a positive birth:

– Women’s expectations of birth are met (or exceeded)
– Women’s sociocultural beliefs regarding delivery are met (or exceeded)
– Baby is born healthy
– The birth environment is safe, both emotionally and clinically
– A supportive birth partner is present
– Staff are skilled and kind
– Women feel a sense of control by being involved in decision making, even when medical intervention is necessary


As there are so many variables involved in a positive birth, it makes sense that not all births will meet all these criteria. At the other end of the spectrum are traumatic births; and again, multiple variables can determine whether a birth is traumatic or not. Birth trauma can involve any of the following:

– Injury sustained by women during childbirth (caesarean section is also included in this definition)
– Foetal distress during birth, injury to baby, or loss of the baby
– Having a premature birth
– Having a late-term miscarriage or stillborn baby
– Feeling very afraid, alone, or distressed during birth
– Feeling powerless, helpless, or a lack of control over what is occurring
– Feeling very shocked or confused during the birth


What can you do if you have experienced birth trauma?
Of course, seek treatment for physical injuries. Regarding the emotional impact of birth trauma: it’s really important to process this, and a simple way to do this is through talking about it. Share your story with trusted people. All too often, this is avoided: you might not want to think or talk about what you’ve been through (it can feel too painful to discuss); you might not want to burden, concern, or scare other people; you may not be able to discuss it with your birth partner or husband (who may also have been traumatised); you may lack people to talk to; and more. Talking about your experiences opens up emotional support, helps you feel less alone, and can help shift negative beliefs about yourself, your parenting, or unwarranted self-blame or criticism regarding birth. If you can’t talk to the people in your life, seek professional supports. It is entirely possible that birth trauma can fade into the background as an unpleasant memory, rather than being an experience that haunts your life.



[1] World Health Organisation (2019). Recommendations: Intrapartum Care for a Positive Childbirth Experience. World Health Organisation; Geneva, Switzerland.

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