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PTSD & Motherhood: How common it is and how to recognize the symptoms



When we think of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), we often think of military members or those who have suffered catastrophic events. Rarely do we think of moms. But PTSD is more common among moms than you might think. According to the National Institutes of Health, up to 45% of new mothers have experienced birth trauma and up to 18.5% reported suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.


So what is PTSD?


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a mental health condition that is triggered by a terrifying event. In many cases, the combination of extreme pain with a loss of control can cause trauma. A traumatic, unmedicated and/or unexpected and painful delivery can all certainly fit in this category.


How do I know if I have PTSD after giving birth?


The signs and symptoms of PTSD can vary for each person. Oftentimes symptoms will include anger, irritation, flashbacks, fear, nightmares of the event, severe anxiety and unwanted thoughts. Symptoms can also include hyper vigilance, self-destructive behavior and isolation among others.


Who is at risk for developing PTSD after childbirth?


Those with prior mental health conditions and women who have been sexually abused or assaulted are among those at higher risk for developing PTSD. If you believe you have PTSD, or are in a high risk category to develop PTSD after giving birth, talk to your medical provider or a healthcare professional right away.


How do I heal from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a huge issue, many times it is much bigger than we can handle on our own. It’s important to talk through the pain, feelings and symptoms - preferably with a mental health professional. Joining a support group can also help. Try to eat well, exercise and sleep well, all of which will help your brain function and overall rest and healing.


Is there any good news?


Yes! A 2004 Study showed that Post Traumatic Growth was possible for some who have experienced trauma. This growth is the outcome of the struggle with the trauma and consists of five dimensions: an appreciation of life, relating to others, personal strength, new possibilities and spiritual change. Researchers believe the growth happens in the same way an earthquake shakes the foundations of the ground - if the traumatic event is strong enough to shake the foundations of the person's core beliefs and views of the world, a cognitive rebuilding can occur in the aftermath of the "quake." Cognitive rebuilding includes letting go of prior views and beliefs and forming new meanings. Not everyone who experiences trauma will experience Post Traumatic Growth, and those who do may not experience growth in all five areas but if you are willing to work on your PTSD, growth is possible!


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