Birth trauma is a significant issue affecting many individuals around the world. While the prevalence of birth trauma is difficult to estimate accurately, some studies suggest that as many as 25-34% of women who give birth report traumatic experiences. This can include a wide range of experiences, such as feelings of loss of control, fear, and pain during childbirth, as well as complications such as emergency caesarean sections, postpartum haemorrhages, and fetal distress. Men and non-binary individuals can also experience birth trauma as partners or as birthing individuals themselves.
Birth trauma can have significant and long-lasting effects on an individual's mental and physical health, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. It can also impact the parent-infant bond, as well as the development of the child.
Recognising the prevalence and impact of birth trauma is critical to providing appropriate support and care to individuals who have experienced it. By acknowledging the experiences of those who have been through birth trauma, we can begin to break down the stigma and support individuals in their healing journey.
What is chronic fatigue syndrome?
Chronic fatigue, also known as myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), is a debilitating condition that is characterised by extreme exhaustion that cannot be explained by an underlying medical condition. People with chronic fatigue often experience profound fatigue that is not improved by rest or sleep, as well as a range of other symptoms such as cognitive difficulties, pain, and sleep disturbances. The exact causes of chronic fatigue are not well understood, but it is believed to be a complex condition that involves multiple factors, including genetic, environmental, and immune system dysfunction.
Chronic fatigue can have a significant impact on an individual's quality of life, limiting their ability to work, socialise, and engage in activities that they enjoy. It can also lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, and depression.
The relationship between chronic fatigue and nervous system dysregulation
Chronic fatigue and nervous system disregulation are closely related. The nervous system plays a crucial role in regulating our body's responses to stress, and when it is dysregulated, it can lead to a range of physical and emotional symptoms, including chronic fatigue.
In particular, chronic fatigue has been linked to dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is responsible for regulating the body's automatic functions such as heart rate, breathing, and digestion. When the ANS is dysregulated, it can lead to a state of chronic stress, which can cause fatigue and other symptoms.
Additionally, chronic fatigue has also been associated with abnormalities in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is another part of the nervous system involved in regulating the body's response to stress. Dysregulation of the HPA axis can lead to imbalances in hormones such as cortisol, which can contribute to symptoms of fatigue and other related symptoms.
Overall, chronic fatigue and nervous system dysregulation are closely related, with dysregulation of the ANS and HPA axis playing important roles in the development and persistence of chronic fatigue. Understanding and addressing these dysregulations through various treatment modalities, such as stress-reduction techniques, medication, and lifestyle changes, can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life for individuals with chronic fatigue.
Read more about how stress is transmitted in utero through the HPA Axis in my blog article here
CASE Study: Sammy's Healing Journey
(name and identifiable details all changed)
Sammy had been living with depression, constant fatigue, and aches for eight long years. Her life had become a blur of anti-depressants, meditation, and veganism, all in a desperate bid to feel better. Countless therapists had come and gone, but nothing seemed to work. After a frustrating search for answers, she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and her life took a sharp turn for the worse. Sammy struggled to stay awake past 1 pm, lost her job, and felt her marriage slipping away. Her children were acting up at school, and she found herself losing her temper and feeling guilty for taking it out on them. But when she arrived to see her new therapist, she felt like she had lost all hope that anything could change.
Despite having limited awareness of her trauma, Sammy knew something wasn't right and was determined to find a way out of the darkness. Seeking somatic therapy was her way of exploring and addressing the root cause of her struggles.
The dynamics of transference
As I listened to Sammy's story, I felt an unexpected surge of emotion within me. Despite hearing countless stories in my line of work, I found myself feeling deeply engrossed in her journey, almost in awe of her unwavering determination to find a cure for herself. She had tried every treatment under the sun over the past eight years, and yet she still remained committed to her healing journey. In a strange way, I even felt proud of her. But as I reflected on these feelings, I couldn't help but wonder where they were coming from. Who was I to Sammy? It became clear that the process of transference had already begun.
Holistic Assessment of Sammy's Condition
As I examined Sammy's structural system, I couldn't help but notice the severity of her condition. Her cranial base was compressed, with a strong left torsion in her neck that felt almost rock-like to the touch. It was clear that fluid was struggling to flow, impeded by a strong tugging sensation coming from her right shoulder. Her kidneys and adrenals were imbalanced, depleted and in need of care. And although her legs remained motionless, I could feel an energetic turmoil, with her legs seemingly kicking back and forth. Despite the physical stillness, her body was telling a different story - a story of deep dissociation and a desperate fight for survival. It was as if her emotional body was screaming out, consumed by a gut-wrenching fear of death.
'I feel really comfortable with you' Sammy said as she lay down on the treatment table. 'I don't know why because I don't even know you.'
I was surprised but I felt the immediate resonance. She was trusting me with her body.
I could feel her system reaching out to mine and I felt something within me, trying to reach back out to her. I attuned to this dynamic and allowed it to develop.
What was really going on here in the unconscious field?
The Transference Field and a Healing Journey
I was suddenly overcome with an immense wave of exhaustion, despite only having been in the therapy session with Sammy for a mere fifteen minutes. It was as if time had become irrelevant, and the intensity of the moment had taken over. As I allowed myself to sink deeper into this feeling, I noticed that Sammy's body had become increasingly restless, with her legs kicking and squirming uncomfortably. It was as if she was fighting for her life. In that moment, I realized that we had both become immersed in the transference field, with me assuming the role of the mother and Sammy embodying the struggling infant.
As I grappled with how to navigate this intense energy, an image flashed before me - a tiny baby with the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around its neck. It was clear that Sammy's birth was a traumatic experience, one that had been replayed in her body and mind throughout her life. Despite the fear and uncertainty, I knew that I needed to help her release this trauma, to remove the figurative cord that had been holding her back for so long. Together, we took the first steps towards healing.
'Sammy, what do you know about your birth?' I asked
'I was just about to say- I can see my birth happening right now. I have the umbilical cord around my neck. I can't get it off....' her voice trailed off into the silence.'
Sammy was slipping away into a dissociative state, a state that had become all too familiar to her throughout her childhood and adult life.
'Shall we take this cord off together?' I asked
'Yes...I'm scared..but yes' she replied
Breaking Free: The Transformative Power of Releasing Trauma
With a rapid fascial unwinding and a release of frantic panic and fear from her nervous system, I supported Sammy's entire body as it began to relax and unwind. I worked to release the severe cranial compression that had been holding her back, promoting an expansion of her entire cranium and energetic grounding of her sacrum. As her spine and neck lengthened and the kicking sensations ceased, she was finally able to breathe freely.
It was a deeply emotional experience for Sammy, who cried tears of relief as her body softened and released a lifetime of fear and exhaustion. Due to the difficult circumstances of her birth, she had absorbed not only her own exhaustion but also that of her mother, carrying the weight of her fatigue and fear in an attempt to alleviate the guilt caused by her own existence. This had blurred the boundaries between Sammy and her mother, leading to deep resentment and anger that she often unknowingly released onto her own childhood.
But finally, Sammy was free. In the subsequent therapy sessions, we worked to integrate aspects of her in utero and birth experience through her physical structure and organs. We cleared her lymphatic system and provided her with tools to support her emotional awareness and expression. Together, we explored her guilt, shame, rage, and forgiveness, working to integrate and release these complex emotions from her body and mind.
From Trauma to Triumph: Sammy's Healing Journey and the Power of Transformation
Following the completion of her treatment, Sammy reported feeling a significant increase in energy levels, allowing her to stay awake for most of the day. This newfound energy had a positive ripple effect on her relationships with her children and partner, allowing her to interact with them more and feel like herself again. Not only had her energy levels improved, but so had her mood, and she was no longer experiencing the constant aching pain that had plagued her for so long. Several months later, Sammy reached out to share some exciting news - she had just secured a part-time job at a nursery close to her home, allowing her to work with and support children, something she had always been passionate about. It was clear that her healing journey had opened up new opportunities and possibilities, and she was no longer held back by her past trauma. With a newfound sense of positivity and empowerment, Sammy was ready to take on whatever the future held.