Around 30% of women are traumatized during the birth of their child1-4 and between 2% and 6% go on to develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a consequence4-10.
About 30,000 women give birth each year in the Greater Vancouver Area11. This means that, in our area, between 600 and 1,800 women each year develop PTSD following the birth of their child. The total number of women with PTSD is probably much higher because PTSD can last for years especially if it remains unacknowledged and untreated. Furthermore, tens of thousands must feel tramatized and experience some PTSD symptoms even though they may not go on to develop full-blown PTSD.
To put this in perspective, the rate of PTSD in the regular Canadian Forces is estimated to be 2.8% overall and 4.7% in soldiers with 3 or more deployments12. In other words, women nowadays are as likely to develop PTSD from giving birth as modern solders are from military combat. Needless to say, the number of women giving birth in Canada is much higher than the number of people deployed by the Canadian Forces.
Despite this, there is virtually no support availalble for women who are suffering the consequences of birth trauma. Health care professional are largely unaware of the problem. They may misdiagnose the symptoms of trauma as post-partum depression and may have difficulty believing that they themselves -- or their professional colleagues -- can traumatize women through their own actions. Traumatized women, on the other hand, may be unable or unwilling to discuss their trauma with medical professionals, given that it was the medical profession that caused it in the first place.
Social support is equally lacking. Traumatized women are often told by well-meaning friends and relatives to "just get over it" and "be grateful they have a healthy baby". This unfortunate lack of understanding and denial of their trauma only re-traumatizes women further and worsens their PTSD symptoms.
This website is dedicated to the survivors of birth trauma. It offers information and a way for women from the Vancouver area to connect with each other in order to recover from their trauma and to seek ways to change the political, societal and health care systems that caused their trauma in the first place.
1. Creedy, D. K., Shochet, I. M. & Horsfall, J. Childbirth and the development of acute trauma symptoms: incidence and contributing factors. Birth 27, 104-11 (2000).
2. Ayers, S., Harris, R., Sawyer, A., Parfitt, Y. & Ford, E. Posttraumatic stress disorder after childbirth: analysis of symptom presentation and sampling. Journal of Affective Disorders 119, 200-4. (2009).
3. Alcorn, K. L., O'Donovan, A., Patrick, J. C., Creedy, D. & Devilly, G. J. A prospective longitudinal study of the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from childbirth events. Psychological medicine 40, 1849-59 (2010).
4. Soet, J., Brack, G. & DiIorio, C. Prevalence and predictors of women's experience of psychological trauma during childbirth. Birth 30, 36-46 (2003).
5. Wijma, K., Soderquist, J. & Wijma, B. Posttraumatic stress disorder after childbirth: a cross sectional study. Journal of anxiety disorders 11, 587-97 (1997).
6. Czarnocka, J. & Slade, P. Prevalence and predictors of post-traumatic stress symptoms following childbirth. The British journal of clinical psychology / the British Psychological Society 39 ( Pt 1), 35-51 (2000).
7. Ayers, S. & Pickering, A. D. Do women get posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of childbirth? A prospective study of incidence. Birth 28, 111-8 (2001).
8. Olde, E., van der Hart, O., Kleber, R. & van Son, M. Posttraumatic stress following childbirth: a review. Clinical psychology review 26, 1-16 (2006).
9. Soderquist, J., Wijma, B. & Wijma, K. The longitudinal course of post-traumatic stress after childbirth. Journal of psychosomatic obstetrics and gynaecology 27, 113-9 (2006).
10. White, T., Matthey, S., Boyd, K. & Barnett, B. Postnatal depression and post-traumatic stress after childbirth: Prevalence, course and co-occurrence. Journal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology 24 (2006).
12. Canadian Community Health Survey: Canadian Forces Supplement on Mental Health 2002.