How to support your partner through birth trauma, a message to dads from the Birth Trauma Association
Some women suffer post-traumatic stress disorder after birth, which can make them angry, irritable, unhappy and over-anxious. It may feel as if your partner is a different person. But it’s likely that you are the only other person present at the birth she knew and trusted, which puts you in a unique position to support her. You can encourage her to seek help from her GP or health visitor and reassure her that you are there for her. Tempting though it is to tell her to snap out of it, this really won’t help – PTSD is not something you can switch off.
Tips from Mums
Be kind, listen and be open.
If your partner has a tough time – TELL HER. If she keeps (like I did) going over and over what happened in the delivery room, make sure you show you understand. Don’t try and convince her that it’s ok and not that bad – she knows her body, and having everyone (even though they’re well-meaning!) trying to be positive can be so patronising and upsetting.
Talk to your partner about your recollections of the birth if she asks you to and don’t leave out anything. If she asks you for the details its because she doesn’t know them herself and she trusts you to tell her the truth.
Acknowledge her experience – and her you.
Do not set a timeframe in which you think she should be healed, follow her cues and let her lead the way. She needs the patience to do this at her own pace.
Trauma during or after birth can affect mums in many ways that may throw you both off guard. After seeing my baby not breathing, I became terrified of her gagging on food, even though I know its part of a child learning to eat.
Tips from Dads
Let her know you are there for her.
Go to the GP with her if you can, or book the appointment for her.
Don’t try and fix it, just listening, no matter how many times she needs to go over it, is really important
Talk to her about what she needs, if she doesn’t know then offer suggestions or start doing things that you think will help, if they don’t try something else.
Help out more practically so she can have some rest, she needs it to come to terms with everything.
Be aware that anything can bring back flashes of the birth, it’s not you or your fault, but you can help her through it.
Get counseling for both of you or just her.