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Can you get PTSD from childbirth? What You Need to Know About Postnatal PTSD

Childbirth has always been an interesting example of duality.

It is, in most cases, a thing of beauty: something ancient civilizations prayed for and worshipped.

Today, even, giving birth is revered as the pinnacle of many people's lives - their greatest accomplishment and the highlight of existence.

At the same time, however, it can be an extremely painful and distressing process.

In some cases, including those with complications during labor or childbirth, giving birth can be a traumatic experience.

In cases where childbirth is very traumatic, some new mothers find themselves with a new mental health concern after giving birth: postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder.

In this article, we'll go over how childbirth can be traumatic, how postnatal PTSD develops, and how it can affect a new mother's life.

Postnatal PTSD Information on This Page:

Can childbirth cause trauma?

Signs You May Have Trauma from Childbirth

Treatment Options for Postnatal PTSD

Therapy for Postnatal PTSD: Williamsburg Therapy Group

Can childbirth cause trauma?


Even a perfect textbook birth can be a traumatic experience. First, there is the physical trauma associated with giving birth to a child. No amount of epidurals or preparation can completely eliminate the fact that the process is painful and messy. That can definitely be traumatic.

Then there is the psychological trauma that can occur due to childbirth. It's an extremely abrupt transition from pregnancy to motherhood. Overnight, you become wholly responsible for another human being. As much as we may not like to talk about it, this can be an extremely traumatic and terrifying realization.

This effect can be multiplied by a significant factor for births and labors with complications.

Nearly every pregnant woman goes through significant nervousness before childbirth. This is not surprising, given that it is both an extremely important event and one in which complications can have drastic consequences.

While most births go off without a hitch, those that have complications can be dangerous for both mother and child. That element of psychological fear can cause trauma, as can any physical injury that may occur.

If trauma at childbirth is bad enough, it can develop into a condition called postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder.

What is postnatal PTSD?

Postnatal PTSD is a condition wherein a woman experiences anxiety and panic related to a traumatic childbirth. The condition affects approximately 9% of women who have just given birth.

Postnatal PTSD is often a debilitating condition that can certainly affect a new mother's life as well as that of her child. It's important to seek clinical care if you have been diagnosed with, or think you may have, postnatal PTSD.

Signs You May Have Trauma from Childbirth

There are two main ways to determine whether you may have postnatal PTSD. First, you can examine your child's birth practicality and determine whether any aspect of it may be conducive to the development of postnatal PTSD.

Second, you can examine your own experience after the fact to determine whether you may be feeling or exhibiting any of the common signs and symptoms of postnatal PTSD.


Even if you feel totally fine after giving birth, you should talk to a mental health professional if there were any potentially traumatic complications with labor or the birth itself.

Mental health conditions can creep, meaning that you may experience a gradual progression of symptoms that you may not notice until genuine distress and disorder take hold. That's why preventative therapy can be crucial: it allows a professional to monitor your mental health and take action before it becomes too bad.

Signs and Symptoms of Postnatal PTSD

If you experience any of the following signs or symptoms of postnatal PTSD, seek the advice of a mental health professional as soon as possible.

  • Insomnia
  • Paranoia/hyper-vigilance when no clear danger is present
  • Depressive symptoms
  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety
  • Flashbacks to childbirth that induce distress

Note that the above symptoms could indicate several different conditions, but all of them require professional attention.

Treatment Options for Postnatal PTSD

There are two main courses of treatment for postnatal PTSD, which are often combined: therapy and medication.


Talk therapy with a licensed psychologist or therapist is a great way to make progress in addressing the emotional roots of postnatal PTSD and working on coping strategies, as has been shown clinically to improve symptoms for most women.


Under the guidance and supervision of a licensed psychiatrist, some medications may be able to reduce the symptoms and distress associated with postnatal PTSD.

Therapy for Postnatal PTSD: Williamsburg Therapy Group

If you suspect you may have experienced trauma during childbirth or if your birth or labor had complications, you should get in touch with a licensed mental health professional as soon as possible.

Williamsburg Therapy Group is home to one of Brooklyn's best postnatal psychology departments, featuring exclusively doctoral-level therapists. That means unrivaled experience and expertise for any presenting issues.

Give us a call or book online today. Feeling better may be closer than you think.

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