Traumatic Birth - Anxiety/ PTSD * LONG READ* - Traumatic Birth and the NICU | Forums | What to Expect (2023)

This is a very long read but I really just needed to let it all out. You don’t have to read it I mostly wrote it to have a place to release it all. My friends and family are all supportive but - and not to sound ungrateful- but it’s just a bit much- it’s almost too supportive.

My daughters birth was exactly a month early and unexpected down to 40 minutes before she was born.


My due date was May 13th, 2023. I work from home and planned to stop working April 21st.

At 32 weeks, I asked my OB at a routine prenatal appt if I could have another ultrasound because I hadn’t and one since 19 weeks and I wanna see her. She said yes she can can order one for me.

I had my baby shower the following weekend so I decided to book the ultrasound after it just cause I wanted to get it out the way with no issues. I have minor OCD so directly after the shower I washed everything, put everything way and set everything up. My boyfriend laughed, my mom told me it’s too early but I like to be prepared.

At 33 weeks I went to the ultrasound appt to do my BPP.

For those of you that don’t know, the Abby gets scored out of 8- 4 categories where they either receive a 2 (normal/present) or a 0 (abnormal/not present).

The tech was really nice and I didn’t get any vibes that my baby wasn’t okay. At 34 weeks it was time for another prenatal appointment. She told me that my baby girl scored 6 out of 8 on the ultrasound and that she failed the breathing category. I asked what that means and she said they weren’t able to see any practice breathing from her. The doctor didn’t seem to be worried about it so I didn’t worry about it either. She said sometimes they don’t see it the way sometimes ultrasound techs can’t get a could sex visual. She said she would schedule me another one just as a precaution. I asked her should I come see her after or wait for our 36 week appt and she said no you’ll hear from me if I need you before hand.

On April 12th, I had my second BPP, but this time it was at the hospital. Long story short, my baby girl failed the breathing category again with a score of 6/8 on the ultrasound. I went home and still wasn’t really worried because her heart rate was good and movement was outstanding so I didn’t really think any too bad was happening. The ultrasound tech this time also told me that plenty of babies fail this category, and most do the time go on to have full term healthy babies, so she’s unsure why my OB felt the need to retest.


The next day, on April 13th at 8 am, I got a call from my OB telling me to go into the hospital for a no stress test as soon as possible. A NST is normally 20 minutes so I told my work that I would be gone for about an hour. I went to the hospital I got there at 9:30 AM. They hooked me up to the NST and the 20 minutes ended up being 7 hours - her heart rate was not spiking enough during the movements she was doing.

I started to worry a little but I guess it didn’t really hit me cause how could something be wrong when she was super active and I can feel and hear her strong heartbeat?

My OB wasn’t on call and the one that was there was in constant communication with her and I wasn’t able to leave. I was starving I didn’t eat anything before arriving to the hospital because I didn’t think I was going to be there that long. They decided to give me a 3rd BPP ultrasound and while I was wheeled down there through the hospitals secret hallways, I told my bf grab some McDonald’s.

I did the ultrasound and she failed the breathing again for the 3rd time. I got one bite of a burger in waiting to hear what’s next, when they told me to stop eating and hooked me back up to a non stress test.

At this point it’s 9:30 pm, I’ve been at the hospital for 12 hours, I’m starving, scared, anxious, and uncomfortable. After an hour on the NST the OB on call let’s me know that based on the failure of the 3 BPP and the results of this all day NST both her and my OB no longer feel it’s safe for me to continue being pregnant. My options were emergency C section or induction but at the first sign of minor distress it would change to a C-section.

I remember her leaving me and my bf to think on it but to be quick. I remember crying I was so terrified. The one thing I didn’t want was a c-section, and now I basically had no choice but to get one. I felt numb and panicked and the same time. Why is this happening to me, I asked. But we decided to go for the C-section instead of trying labour because I didn’t want to add to anymore stress my baby girl was already going through.

I remember everything happening so fast. It was just a C-section but it was and emergency one.

2 lovely nurses came in and they were my rock throughout all of it. For anyone out there who didn’t have amazing nurses in so sorry because I don’t think I could have made it without them. They hooked me up to IVs and asked me a *** tonne of questions, the OB came and read me a laundry list of complications that could happen form the surgery, the anesthesiologist came and asked me about my scoliosis and allergies. I had papers shoved at me to sign. They just kept talking and talking and this kept going even as they wheeled my bed to the operating room.

The room was huge the lights where bright, there were so many people.I started to shut down mentally.

The anesthesiologist came in and said they would be injecting nerve blocker into my spine and what I’d feel. And during the whole process I felt extremely overwhelmed.

I was naked from the boobs down, I felt so exposed I started crying. My nurses kept whispering to me, reassuring and comforting, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. They explained what they and everyone were doing to me.

- strapping down your arms so you don’t move

-inserting catheter

-breathing in oxygen

- setting up screen to block the procedure

-where my bf is and where he will stand

When it came time to test if the anesthesia took, I was strapped down and unable to do anything but move my head. The pressed the knife on my right side and asked if I feel it. This part is where the anxiety for the C-section stemmed from. The fear of feeling when I’m not supposed to. I didn’t feel pain though just sone pressure.

Then they moved to my left side and the minute the knife touched my skin I started freaking out. My nurses (god sent) told them I could feel it before I even got a word out.

The anesthesiologist was an *** and asked me if I’m sure it’s not just pressure, once again my nurse stood up for me and said no she feels it and she knows the difference. I went through that testing 3 times and every time I felt it in my left side.

They told me that due to my scoliosis the nerve blocker went to one side only and so now the emergency c-section has changed from a conscious one to an unconscious one. My bf is no longer allowed in the room and more doctors and nurses fled into the room. I started panicking and crying and my nurses was trying to console me, the anesthesiologist never warned me just put the mask over my head and that was the end of my consciousness.

Upon waking up I found out my baby was in the NICU and would be there for a couple days. I also was so itchy and realized that it was from the fentanyl they gave me. Benadryl didn’t work so they had to give me overdose meds to counteract it. Worst experience of my life. Will be avoiding that drug in the future.

To shorten this part, having a baby in the NICU and recovering form a C-section has its own set of traumas; seeing your premature baby with 3000 different cords attached, feeding tubes, IV’s, oxygen masks, it’s terrifying.

Postpartum hormones are also a *** and I was dealing with some depressing thoughts. Why me? Why her? What did I do? Am I a bad person? A bad mother?

But to keep the trauma going -

1) After my C-section, they released me less than 48 hours later. Upon release, less than 24 hours later I fainted at home and ended up back in the hospital.

2) baby girl was supposed to only spend 4 days in the NICU but the night before her original discharge date her oxygen levels dropped to a disturbing level and they kept for fora other 5 days. 11 days in the NICU and she was discharged.


3) 12 hours after she came home - we went to change her and she’s stopped breathing, she was struggling and fighting to breathe but for some reason wasn’t able to- she started turning purple and after a minute we were able to get her breathing again. This happened 2 more times but on a smaller scale within 20 minutes and 911 was called.

4) she spent another 6 days in the NICU- she is now on medication for GERD(which is a typical preemie thing but that they didn’t catch in her original 11 days), she’s on a laxative and a special formula, because the formula in the NICU made her constipated.

She is now home but I am unable to sleep. Every noise has me checking on her, every time I close my eyes unwanted thoughts and images pop in my head so I keep them open. When I do fall asleep I see her purple face.

I’m struggling with PTSD, anxiety, and depressing thoughts and feelings about myself. I talk about it as often as I can because postpartum depression is very real and I am working actively to try and not reach there.

My birth story was a shitshow but I tell myself I am strong and I can get through this.

If you read this all, thank you for listening ��


What is birth trauma PTSD? ›

Postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a type of anxiety disorder. It is also known as birth trauma. You may develop postnatal PTSD if you experience traumatic events during labour or childbirth.

Is the NICU traumatizing for babies? ›

Premature babies can have a form of post-traumatic stress after staying in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

What is considered a traumatic birth experience? ›

Birth trauma is any physical or emotional distress you may experience during or after childbirth. During the birth, you may feel afraid, helpless or unsupported by those around you. After the birth, you may be left feeling guilty or numb due to events beyond your control. You could even suffer from panic attacks.

What are the long term effects of traumatic birth on baby? ›

Trauma can seriously disrupt important aspects of child development that occur before the age of three years. These may include relationship and bonding with parents, as well as foundational development in the areas of language, mobility, physical and social skills and managing emotions.

What disabilities can you get from birth trauma? ›

Birth injuries can lead to long-term complications, including cognitive developmental disabilities. A baby who suffers head trauma at birth may have a higher chance of developing ADD/ADHD, cerebral palsy, and various learning disabilities. In some cases, head trauma and other birth injuries are unavoidable.

What is the most common birth trauma? ›

Facial nerve: Facial nerve is the most common cranial nerve-injured with a traumatic birth. It occurs in up to 10 per 1000 live births and is usually a result of pressure on the facial nerve by forceps or from a prominent maternal sacral promontory during descent.

What is the highest trauma level for NICU? ›

What is a Level IV NICU? Level IV (four) NICUs offer the highest level of medical care for newborns and premature infants available. These facilities are equipped to care for the most complex neonatal conditions and the sickest and smallest newborns, no matter their gestational age at birth.

Why do babies not cry in the NICU? ›

So long as their heart rate is stable and breathing normally, newborns do not have to cry to show healthy adaptation to the new world. A baby's quiet arrival may mean they do not know how to cry yet or other benign reasons for their silence.

Why can't you hold NICU babies? ›

Holding and touching your baby. Very early preemies have skin that is thin and fragile. So they may not be able to cope well with being touched.

Can a traumatic birth cause problems later in life? ›

Studies have also shown a link between a traumatic birth and developmental delay including attention deficit disorder and autism.

What is life like after traumatic birth? ›

Sometimes the effects of birth trauma can emerge and continue for some time after you've given birth. At the time of birth, you may have felt fearful, helpless or unheard. After the birth, it's possible to feel shocked, guilty or numb and even experience panic attacks or anxiety.

What is the most likely cause of birth trauma? ›

What causes birth injury?
  • the position of the baby, such as in a breech birth.
  • having a large baby (over 4kg)
  • having a very quick or very long labour.
  • labour complications.
  • assisted delivery using forceps or ventouse (vacuum)
  • having a small or unusually shaped pelvis.

Can traumatic birth cause brain damage? ›

Every year hundreds of babies suffer some degree of brain damage as a result of trauma during childbirth. Birth injuries involving brain damage are the most serious and potentially devastating type of birth injuries.

How can birth trauma affect a child's brain development? ›

Trauma-induced changes to the brain can result in varying degrees of cognitive impairment and emotional dysregulation that can lead to a host of problems, including difficulty with attention and focus, learning disabilities, low self-esteem, impaired social skills, and sleep disturbances (Nemeroff, 2016).

Can birth trauma cause brain damage? ›

Birth injury brain damage. Head and brain injuries are the most common birth-related injuries. Brain damage caused by an injury before, during, or after delivery can cause a child to suffer lifelong physical and/or mental disabilities. In severe cases, it can lead to cerebral palsy.

Can I claim compensation for traumatic birth? ›

Traumatic birth compensation claims. If you suffered a traumatic experience during childbirth which has led to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), you might have a claim for compensation if it was due to medical negligence.

How do you recover from a traumatic birth mentally? ›

Recovering from a traumatic birth
  1. Do not judge yourself. ...
  2. Seek practical support. ...
  3. Seek out and accept emotional support. ...
  4. Acknowledge the feelings you may have toward your baby. ...
  5. Talk to someone. ...
  6. Consider the impacts upon your relationship. ...
  7. Try and obtain details of what actually happened. ...
  8. Do not blame yourself.

Which mental disability is after birth? ›

Postpartum psychosis is a serious mental health illness that can affect someone soon after having a baby. It affects around 1 in 500 mothers after giving birth. Many people who have given birth will experience mild mood changes after having a baby, known as the "baby blues".

What is the #1 complication of childbirth? ›

Postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth. Up to 50% to 60% of all new mothers experience postpartum blues during the first 2 postpartum weeks. The blues manifest as excessive and unpredictable crying episodes, labile mood, and sadness during a time that is expected to be joyful.

What is the most rare trauma during pregnancy? ›

Uterine rupture: Enlargement of the uterus makes it susceptible to direct abdominal trauma. This rare complication is estimated to complicate 0.6% of traumatic injury. Uterine rupture is associated with a fetal mortality rate approaching 100%. Maternal mortality of 10% is usually a result of associated injuries.

Can birth trauma cause autism? ›

The researchers found that those children exposed to complications during childbirth were 10% likelier to develop autism while those who were exposed before labor were 22% likelier to develop autism.

Is NICU high stress? ›

Because of the nature of this highly specialized form of nursing, NICU nurses can experience high levels of psychologic and physical stress.

Why is NICU stressful? ›

You may be worried about your baby's condition and when you'll be able to take him home. Your relationship with your partner may be strained because this situation is new to both of you. You may feel pressure to be with your baby in the NICU instead of at work or home with other children. All these things cause stress.

What does a Level 2 NICU mean? ›

Level II: Intensive care for sick and premature infants. Level III: Comprehensive care for more seriously ill newborns. Level IV: Major surgery, surgical repair of serious congenital heart and anomolies that require cardiopulmonary bypass and/or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for medical conditions.

Why the NICU is scary? ›

Having a child in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) can be scary for many parents. Seeing your child hooked up to monitors, IVs and leads, not knowing what is going to happen to your baby or how you can help, is a terrifying experience.

What do doctors do if a baby doesn't cry at birth? ›

If the newborn doesn't cry, the medical staff immediately takes action, because there is a very short window of time in which to save the baby. The old technique of holding babies upside down and slapping their back is not done anymore, said Dr. Wyckoff.

Do babies feel lonely in NICU? ›

“NICU nurses and other healthcare professionals care for babies around-the-clock, ensuring all their physical and developmental needs are met.” Your baby may not feel lonely, per se, but they still have emotional needs to be met. Williams explains that parents are the best people to support their NICU baby in this way.

What is kangaroo time with a baby? ›

What is kangaroo care? Kangaroo care is when you lay your diapered baby on your bare chest (if you're the father) or between your bare breasts (if you're the mother). It's also called skin-to-skin care because your baby's bare skin is touching your bare skin. Put a blanket on your baby's back to help keep him warm.

What should you not say to a NICU mother? ›

What not to say: “At least…” Comments suggesting there is a “silver lining” to a NICU stay can be insulting. These statements range from “at least you can sleep while the baby is in the NICU,” to “at least you didn't have to endure the discomfort of the last trimester.”

Can you kiss your NICU baby? ›

In order to prevent serious health issues, anyone and everyone, including parents, should avoid kissing babies. Due to the rise in cases of RSV and other illnesses, it's extremely important for all individuals to be aware of the dangers of kissing babies.

Can a traumatic birth cause learning disabilities? ›

In less severe cases, it may lead to dyslexia, dyspraxia, learning difficulties, hyperactivity, epilepsy, obsessional behaviour, personality disorders, and a wide range of developmental difficulties.

At what age do babies remember trauma? ›

"Basic research shows that young babies even five months old can remember that a stranger came into room and scared them three weeks before.

How long does PTSD last after childbirth? ›

Postpartum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is not a specific process but can last for months and may manifest itself during any subsequent pregnancies or even become chronic.

Can birth trauma cause dissociation? ›

Women with maltreatment history and PTSD are at risk to be re-traumatized or overwhelmed by birth and to dissociate.

Can lack of oxygen at birth cause autism? ›

There is some evidence to suggest that brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation at birth may increase an infant's risk of developing disorders such as autism. A recent study in the US estimated that complications at birth may increase the risk of ASD in children by as much as 10%.

Can you see brain damage in a newborn? ›

In many cases, however, it is not readily apparent so soon after birth that an infant suffered from brain damage. As the child grows, there will be delays in development or abnormal physical examination finding that help medical professionals diagnose the condition.

What happens if PTSD is left untreated in a child? ›

Slower and Damaged Cognitive Development

Children experiencing PTSD will have stunted brain development when compared to a normal child. This causes them to have slower capability to learn, lower general IQ, memory problems, damaged social and emotional responses, and a defensive personality.

Do I have PTSD from childbirth? ›

Symptoms of postpartum PTSD might include: Intrusive re-experiencing of a past traumatic event (which in this case may have been the childbirth itself) Flashbacks or nightmares. Avoidance of stimuli associated with the event, including thoughts, feelings, people, places and details of the event.

What are the psychological effects of birth trauma? ›

A traumatic birth experience is associated with postpartum mental health problems, including depression and post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] [1, 3–6]. Poor mental health in the postnatal period can alter a woman's sense of self, and disrupt family relationships [7–10].

Does birth trauma affect personality? ›

Early Trauma and Long-Term Psychological Effects

Psychologists believe children who had difficult births are more likely to be angry, aggressive, and anxious compared to children who had easy births. Babies with birth complications are frequently placed in a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit).

What are the different types of birth trauma? ›

Birth injuries typically fall into one of five main categories.
  • Brain injury, intracranial hemorrhages (bleeds), soft tissue injury. ...
  • Peripheral nerve birth injury. ...
  • Cranial nerve and spinal cord birth injury. ...
  • Bone birth injury. ...
  • Intra-abdominal birth injury.

How do you recover from a traumatic birth? ›

Recovering from a traumatic birth
  1. Do not judge yourself. ...
  2. Seek practical support. ...
  3. Seek out and accept emotional support. ...
  4. Acknowledge the feelings you may have toward your baby. ...
  5. Talk to someone. ...
  6. Consider the impacts upon your relationship. ...
  7. Try and obtain details of what actually happened. ...
  8. Do not blame yourself.

What are 3 risks of mental health during childbirth? ›

Mental health disorders such as depression , anxiety , or obsessive-compulsive disorder may surface during or after pregnancy. Additionally, birth-related post-traumatic stress disorder or a severe but rare condition called postpartum psychosis can happen following childbirth.

What are 3 types of traumatic events? ›

There are three main types of trauma: Acute, Chronic, or Complex
  • Acute trauma results from a single incident.
  • Chronic trauma is repeated and prolonged such as domestic violence or abuse.
  • Complex trauma is exposure to varied and multiple traumatic events, often of an invasive, interpersonal nature.

What are the four 4 kinds of childbirth? ›

  • Vaginal delivery.
  • Assisted vaginal delivery (vacuum or forceps).
  • C-section (Cesarean birth).
  • VBAC (vaginal birth after cesarean).
Jul 10, 2022


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