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Is Your Body is Holding Birth Trauma?

It's estimated that around 30% of women experience a traumatic birth each year. Between 1% and 6% end up with (PTSD) after birth. Unresolved birth trauma can remain in the nervous system well into adulthood, manifesting in a range of physical, emotional and psychological symptoms. Our birth experience is our first entry into the world. It imprints upon us, a notion of how safe the world is, how safe we are and what it's like to be alive. This sets the stage for the rest of our lives, shaping everything from our ability to form relationships to our capacity for learning and emotional regulation.

Adults who experienced birth trauma may go on to have a variety of physical, mental and emotional symptoms later in life and wonder where it all comes from. Not everyone is aware of their birth process. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Physical symptoms include chronic pain, headaches and chronic fatigue. Mental symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, ADHD or difficulty concentrating. Emotional symptoms can manifest as feelings of insecurity, anger, grief and overwhelming fear. There is however, limited research which explores the impact of birth trauma on parenting from the mothers’ perspectives.

It’s important to note that the symptoms of birth trauma can be difficult to identify as it's pre verbal trauma and often there is no clear memory. This means it may take years to surface into our conscious awareness. Some people may go through life without ever realizing the root cause of their symptoms is related to their traumatic entry into the world and the fear that is held within because of this. If that's you, keep reading and don't despair. It's possible to heal.

This blog post covers:

  1. How Unresolved Birth Trauma Can Affect Our Mental Well-Being

  2. Specific examples of Pre-natal Trauma, Birth Trauma and Post Natal Trauma

  3. Birth Trauma in Babies and Young Children

  4. Physical, Emotional and Somatic Signs of birth Trauma as an Adult

  5. Words from my clients who have healed their birth trauma imprints

How Unresolved Birth Trauma Can Affect Our Mental Well-Being

Having a traumatic birth increases the risk of anxiety, depression and creates emotional regulation challenges later in life. Exposure to near death experiences during the birthing process floods the baby's brain with stress hormones and if this stress is not discharged from the body through somatic integration after birth, it can lead to functional and structural changes in the amygdala. This can impact long term neurological balance and the immune system.

Here are some examples of research that support the idea that the early stages of our lives, including the birth process, have a significant impact on our physical, emotional, and mental health:

  • A study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that traumatic birth experiences were associated with an increased risk of anxiety and depression in adulthood. (Bastian et al., 2013)

  • Infants who experience trauma during birth are at increased risk for developmental delays, including delays in language development and cognitive functioning. (Alduncin et al., 2014)

  • A study published in the Journal of Perinatology found that interventions during labor, such as the use of forceps or vacuum extraction, were associated with an increased risk of postpartum depression. (Korja et al., 2012)

  • Another study found that maternal stress during pregnancy and childbirth was associated with an increased risk of behavioral and emotional problems in children. (Monk et al., 2012)

  • Studies have shown that early experiences, including experiences in the womb and during childbirth, can have a significant impact on brain development. For example, a study published in the journal Developmental Science found that exposure to stress hormones during fetal development was associated with changes in brain structure and function. (Buss et al., 2012)

Examples of Pre-natal Trauma

  1. Unwelcoming or fearful feelings at discovery of pregnancy

  2. Stressful or abusive relationship between parents during pregnancy or after birth

  3. Maternal stress, fear or depression during pregnancy or infancy

  4. Child was not wanted for some part of pregnancy

  5. Considered or attempted abortion

  6. Biochemical stresses during pregnancy from nicotine, alcohol, pesticides, etc.

  7. Twin lost during pregnancy including early pregnancy or during birth

  8. Unresolved traumatic history in parents or ancestors, such as early abuse, loss of a parent, traumatic birth, or being given up for adoption

  9. Hospitalization or surgery as an infant, including circumcision

  10. Previous traumatic experiences, such as sexual abuse, that can be triggered during pregnancy, labor, or delivery

  11. Fear or anxiety related to the birth process or parenting, including fears of not being a good parent or of not being able to provide for the newborn

  12. Cultural or societal pressures to have a certain type of birth or parenting style, leading to feelings of guilt or inadequacy if expectations are not met

  13. Stress, fear / domestic violence during the pregnancy

Examples of Birth Trauma

  1. Chemical induction of labor that leads to dissociation of birth parent

  2. Fetal monitors that are screwed into the fetus's skull

  3. Premature birth

  4. Failed abortion attempts

  5. Loss of a twin in utero

  6. Loss of mother during the birth process

  7. Extended labour creating undue fear and stress

  8. Unusually fast labor

  9. Being stuck during labor

  10. Excessive blood loss during labor

  11. Cord being wrapped tightly around the neck

  12. A near-death experience or deprivation of oxygen during delivery

  13. Medical interventions such as C-sections, forceps, or vacuum extraction

  14. Anesthesia which breaks the connection between parent and child

  15. Separation from the mother after birth or for extended periods during infancy

  16. Painful medical interventions such as heel sticks or spinal taps

  17. Use of Pitocin, a medication used to induce or speed up labor

  18. Lack of control over the birthing process or birth plan

  19. Unsupportive or unsympathetic medical staff

  20. Inadequate pain management during labor

  21. Inadequate emotional support during labor and delivery

  22. Invasive or unnecessary medical procedures during labor and delivery

  23. Birth complications, such as shoulder dystocia or meconium aspiration

  24. Inadequate or incorrect information provided by healthcare providers

  25. Cultural or language barriers that impede communication between healthcare providers and the birth parent

  26. Institutionalized racism and discrimination in healthcare systems that impact the quality of care provided to marginalized communities

Examples of Post-natal Trauma

  1. Lack of support or involvement from a partner or other family members during pregnancy and childbirth

  2. Disrespectful or traumatic treatment from healthcare providers during pregnancy, labor, or delivery

  3. Experiencing a birth that deviates significantly from a person's birth plan or expectations

  4. Lack of access to prenatal or postpartum care, including mental health support

  5. Inadequate support for breastfeeding or feeding challenges in the postpartum period

  6. Traumatic or stressful experiences during the neonatal period, such as prolonged hospitalization or medical complications

  7. Lack of support for mental health challenges or PTSD related to a previous traumatic birth experience

  8. Inability to form a positive attachment with the newborn due to circumstances such as separation or NICU hospitalization

Signs of Birth Trauma in Babies and Young Children

  • Cross eyes / divergent eyes

  • Shaking / tremors / seizures

  • Inconsolable crying / screaming

  • Pushing away of mother during feeding

  • Inability to feed without extreme discomfort

  • Hypersensitivity to touch

  • Hypermobility

  • Avoidance of eye contact

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Cranial deformations

  • Spinal cord injury

  • Loose arms / lack of muscle tone

  • Limbs appear stiff or rigid

  • Appears floppy like a ragdoll

  • Doesn't crawl

  • Extreme hypervigilance

  • Delayed milestones such as crawling or walking

  • Excessive startle response to noise or movement

  • Excessive crying or fussiness

  • Developmental delays or regression

  • Irritability or difficulty soothing

  • Fear or avoidance of certain objects or activities

  • Hyperactivity or attention difficulties

  • Sleep disturbances or nightmares

  • Regression of previously mastered skills such as toilet training or language acquisition

  • Chronic health issues such as asthma or eczema that may be related to stress or trauma

  • Difficulty with social interactions or forming attachments

  • Overwhelming anxiety or fear in response to normal daily activities

  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause

  • Night terrors or flashbacks of the traumatic experience.

Adults - Physical Signs That Your Body is Holding Birth Trauma

  • Chronic fatigue syndome

  • PTSD

  • Suicidal Ideation

  • Learning disabilities

  • Depression

  • Nightmares and flashbacks

  • ADHD

  • Asthma

  • Seizures and Epilepsy

  • Chronic pain, particularly in the back or pelvic area

  • Digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or acid reflux

  • Hormonal imbalances or menstrual irregularities

  • Chronic tension or headaches

  • Chronic illnesses or autoimmune disorders

  • Sensitivity to light or sound

  • Skin disorders or rashes

  • Reproductive issues such as infertility or difficult pregnancies

  • Chronic respiratory issues such as bronchitis or pneumonia

  • Chronic or recurring infections

  • Cardiovascular issues such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

Emotional Signs That Your Body is Holding Birth Trauma

  • Intense and overwhelming fear

  • Feeling of helplessness

  • Feeling drained / no life force / like you've run a marathon every day

  • Feeling of being completely unsupported

  • Feeling of dread around your own existence

  • Sense of the world being inherently dangerous

  • Fear of death

  • Intense anxiety or panic attacks

  • Avoidance of anything related to pregnancy or childbirth

  • Feeling disconnected from your own body or emotions

  • Difficulty forming or maintaining intimate relationships

  • Shame or guilt related to the birth experience

  • Low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness

  • Anger or irritability, especially related to the birth experience

  • Difficulty trusting others or feeling safe in the world

  • Feelings of being stuck or trapped in the past

  • Intrusive thoughts or images related to the traumatic experience

  • Feelings of numbness or dissociation from oneself or the world around them

  • Difficulty regulating emotions or feeling overwhelmed by them

  • Self-destructive behavior or thoughts of self-harm.

  • Difficulty bonding with your child or feeling disconnected from them

  • Overprotective or hypervigilant behavior towards your child

  • Postpartum depression or anxiety

  • Recurrent nightmares or flashbacks of the traumatic experience

  • A sense of guilt or responsibility for the traumatic experience

  • Feeling overwhelmed or hopeless about the future

  • Difficulty with self-care or self-nurturing behaviors

  • Substance abuse or addiction as a means of coping with the trauma

  • Avoidance of situations or people that trigger memories of the traumatic experience

  • Difficulty setting and maintaining boundaries in relationships

  • Hypersensitivity to sounds, smells, or other sensory stimuli that remind you of the traumatic experience

  • A sense of disorientation or confusion about one's own identity or purpose.

Somatic Signs That Your Body is Holding Birth Trauma

  • Freeze response and shock in the body

  • Chronic fatigue or exhaustion

  • Chronic skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis

  • Adrenal Fatigue regardless of the supplements you take

  • Unexplained allergies or sensitivities

  • Changes in menstrual cycles or hormonal imbalances

  • Chronic or recurring infections such as colds or flu.

  • Chronic muscle tension or pain, especially in the pelvic area

  • Chronic inflammation or autoimmune disorders


"I entered Womb Room with an open curiosity and some trepidation, but with hopes of getting to know more about how I came into this world. I was an emergency C-Section and planned adoption; I was born in a nursing home in London. I believe my adoptive parents collected me when I was two weeks old. The first days of Womb precipitated huge physical releases. On one occasion, during the second healing session it felt as if ‘stuff’ was being pulled from my body because it was no longer needed. I had jaw tremors on several occasions and heat, tingles and prickles all over my body, particularly the skin on my face. As we moved into the second half of the journey, I realised that Womb was expansive, spacious and nurturing. The answers I had been looking for, in relation to my birth and biological mother, were not there. However in their place was a sense of knowing that ‘not knowing’ was exactly perfect and that Womb was always there for me and would keep me safe. The need to understand and have my curiosity satisfied was just unnecessary and meaningless. At the end of the journey, my sense is that in letting go of ‘the need to know’ I have become more embodied, more at one with the universe and myself, and with that - recognising that we are all one. I am my biological mother, just as she is me. With this knowledge came limitless freedom within me.” -Sara, UK

During the session I felt a lot of chemical release. Lots of release in the brain, I literally felt the top of my left shoulder nerve by nerve being plucked and rewired. Both my masculine and feminine side being stretched and rested. Lots of work in my liver.Saw myself in utero. It felt like the only time I connected with my mother and father together.... the only time they were in unison. The only time I felt deeply loved by my father. So much coughing and air moving through me and my womb. I was holding myself... rocking myself slowly like a small child letting her know she is safe. That we are one. That it’s okay to feel. You are loved little one, you are loved. I remember seeing pink and blue and a quick flash of utero, a deep red rose, rainbows, and light beam. Oh I also saw what I perceive to be the universe I’m not really sure. I saw a the colors of the earth spinning with a hole in the middle? I love you all so much <3 I surrender and bow down to womb and all of my fellow womb warriors.

Wow Safa! I went into my birth process! My upper body movements reflected me going through the birthing canal and when I came out and saw what’s around me, I started laughing! A proper belly laugh, thinking: what the heck is this world? It looks so funny! And everyone is so serious! 😆 it filled me with so much joy ✨ and these past two days new things have been coming to me, offers, people, new thoughts, new plans... combined with the last new moon, Safa your super powerful healing and the energy of this Womb Room is a magical combo!!! 🙌🏼 Simona - UK

Wow today was really gentle and uplifting. I had some powerful imagery that i was centred to the earth initially from an umbilical cord, then I transformed into a foetus and was protected by the earths core then was born onto the earth and transformed into an adult that was deeply rooted from my nerves all the way back to the earths core. I was earth and earth was me. It was beautiful and powerful.

I came into Womb Room with a number of areas to be healed including a Womb full of anger and physical pain. Since my first pregnancy i have bled heavily every month for 9 yrs. I tried every diet and lots of therapies all which gave me some short term relief. I never got to the root cause. In Womb Room I met my anger and realised i was angry with my womb because i didn't give birth vaginally. I also got to understand why i didn't have a vaginal birth - as i didn't feel that I was good enough. A theme that has played out in my life for the past 43yrs. -Orla, Ireland

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