Up to 16% of new moms may experience postpartum PTSD. While it can occur in anyone, it is more common in mothers who give birth to a baby with special needs, have PTSD before the delivery or have had trouble getting pregnant. Postpartum PTSD is not the same thing as postpartum depression, and it can start months after giving birth.
Signs of avoidance in postpartum PTSD
Women experiencing postpartum PTSD may try to avoid any mention of a traumatic event related to the birth of their child. They also go out of their way to prevent seeing any medical care team member who participated in the event or worked at the place where they gave birth. They often blame themselves for the traumatic event.
Emotional signs of postpartum PTSD
Women who experience postpartum PTSD may experience intense feelings that they or their child are in danger. They may feel depressed and startle easily. These women often have trouble feeling loveable, so they withdraw from relationships. Sleep disturbances are common.
Treatment for postpartum PTSD
Women who think they are experiencing postpartum PTSD may benefit from mental healthcare as several types of therapy have proven effective. Sometimes, exposing the woman to the place where the traumatic birth occurred as well as to the medical team can help. Many kinds of cognitive therapy may help. Other women benefit from treatment designed to help them reprocess the traumatic event, such as when their child received a birth injury.
If you are the baby’s father, watch the mother for signs of postpartum PTSD. It can be difficult for women to spot it in themselves. Even if women know they have this condition, they may not know where to go for help.