How to cope after birth trauma – a guest post by Phoebe Shields

I remember coming out of my first birth feeling like… ‘what the hell was that.’ In hindsight I was definitely dealing with birth trauma but at the time I didn’t really even know it was a thing. I remember thinking – I had a healthy baby – so that was a good experience – right?! Maybe that was just what birth is like for everyone?  


I’ve definitely come a loooonnngg way since that first birth and so I’m really honoured today to open this little space for a guest post on how to cope with birth trauma because I think it’s such an important topic.  Thank you Phoebe for sharing your experience.  Make sure you check out her post below and then head over to her socials and say hi. 


cope after birth trauma


A few months ago I realised that my anxiety had spiralled out of control.


At the end of each day I would fall into bed, exhausted, only to lie awake for what felt like hours. My thoughts kept involuntarily returning to the events surrounding the traumatic birth of my son, which had occurred over a year ago.


Memories of the birth would flash before my eyes and I would be flooded with anxiety and grief. The muscles in my body would tense, my heart would race and my breathing would become shallow and rapid. I was re-experiencing the trauma each time I remembered it, as if it was happening all over again.


I was experiencing symptoms of postpartum post traumatic stress disorder, a condition that affects approximately 9% of women following childbirth.


Thankfully, with the help of a wonderful counsellor, I discovered the power of meditation.


Now, if you had asked me about mediation a few years ago I would have been sceptical. To me, it seemed a bit airy-fairy. But in the past few months I have discovered that meditation is a simple and practical tool that helps me manage my anxiety.


The two main mediation practices I use regularly are deep abdominal breathing and 5 senses mindfulness.


Deep Abdominal Breathing


The first and most effective strategy I learnt to cope with my anxiety is a technique called deep abdominal breathing.


Here are the steps:

1. Lie down or sit comfortably with your eyes closed.
2. Take a moment to scan your body for any tension and relax your muscles.
3. Place a hand on your upper abdomen, just below your rib cage.
4. Take a long, slow breath in through your nose. You should feel your hand rising with the breath.
5. After a short pause, exhale slowly though your mouth. Activate your abdominal muscles to help you slowly expel the breath. You should feel the hand on your abdomen slowly falling as you release the breath.
6. Aim to repeat this exercise for 5 minutes.


The 5 Senses Meditation

I have struggled with meditation in the past because I can’t seem to quieten the voice in my head. When my mind is supposed to be clear of thought, I find myself involuntarily drifting to thoughts of grocery lists or what I am going to cook for dinner (mum life!).


I love this mindfulness exercise because it has a structure and it helps my mind focus on something tangible.


Here is how it works:

1. Lie down or sit comfortably. Take a moment to relax any tension in your muscles. I find it easier to keep my eyes closed during this activity.
2. Begin by bringing your attention to your breath for a few moments
3. Now move your focus to your senses. I like to go through each sense in the order listed below but you may start with any of your senses and move through them in any order. The idea is to focus on each sense and stay present in the moment. Spend a few minutes on each sense. If you notice your thoughts drifting just gently bring your focus back to your senses.


Sound: Start by focusing your attention on all of the sounds around you. You might notice the sound of your breathing. Perhaps you can hear sounds near you like the curtain rustling in the breeze or sounds far in the distance like traffic or a dog barking.


Smell: Now shift your focus to your sense of smell. What does your environment smell like? Perhaps you can smell the fresh air from outside or the lingering smell of perfume. You may not smell anything specific and that’s ok. Just spend a few moments gently focusing on this sense.


Taste: Move your attention now to the sense of taste. Maybe you can notice the aftertaste of a previous meal or drink. Or perhaps there is simply a neutral taste in your mouth. You can move your tongue around your mouth to help heighten your awareness.


Touch: Shift your focus to the sensations of touch on your skin. How does the material of your clothes feel against your skin? Perhaps you can feel a breeze from a fan or the warmth of the sun. You might notice the sensation of pressure against your feet on the floor.


Sight: Lastly, gently open your eyes and observe your surrounding. What can you see? Observe the shapes, colours and textures around you. Notice the light and shadows. Try not to analysis what you see. Simply let your awareness rest with this sense for a few minutes.


Healing from postpartum PTSD is an ongoing process that I know isn’t going to happen overnight. If I am honest, I find it hard to imagine a time when my wounds will ever be completely healed. But wounds and scars are part of life and part of what makes us who we are.


My aim is not to suppress or forget my feelings about my birth experience but rather to find a way to accept these feelings without being overwhelmed with anxiety..


Meditation empowers me with the ability to find a sense of calm amongst the chaos of emotion.


*It is important to note that these techniques were recommended and taught to me by a qualified psychologist as part of a personalised treatment plan for postpartum PTSD. If you have experienced birth trauma or suffer from anxiety, it is important to seek professional help.


Phoebe Shields is a mum, writer and coffee enthusiast. She is also one half of the creative blogging duo behind P.S It’s A Mum Thing. The blog is an honest, uplifting and often hilarious depiction of everything that encompasses motherhood. Connect with her on Instagram, Facebook or her website.

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