Impacts of Birth shock and Trauma
Birth is one of the most physically and emotionally demanding events which any human will ever go through, whether it’s a mother giving birth or to a baby being birthed. We as humans have no explicit or conscious memories of going through the birthing process, nevertheless we hold implicit or somatic memories in our psyche/energy field and physical body. This is where our birth trauma is held. The implications of birth trauma can have startling effects on our emotional disposition, social interactions, cognitive ability and overall well-being. In western society birth is generally a one-sided story and that is of the mothers’ experience. However, there are always two sides to every story and the baby also has a story to tell. Their story is told through metaphors and behavioural patterns. For example, issues with maternal bonding, insistent crying, not sleeping or feeding correctly and poor digestion.
A baby’s physical body goes through huge stress during labour and delivery. The cranium is the area which is most often affected during birth. This is because there are parts of the cranium that are compressed when they pass over a mother’s sacrum during delivery. These points called Conjunct points, are very sensitive and can adapt to stress and hold the memory of intense or traumatic experiences. A parent may notice a baby is frequently touching one side of their head or have a preferred side to feed from or become very upset when a particular area is touched. These are the areas that hold the imprint of birth shock or trauma. When a parent is consciously aware of this, and the child is looked after with the appropriate healing modality the shock can be resolved. If it stays unresolved it can be played out as dramas when the child is older through for example nightmares, anxiety, social issues, phobias or OCD’s.
Mothers go through emotional shifts during labour and delivery. Since the body holds trauma somatically, old unconscious memories from their own birth story can be triggered. This can influence bonding and attachment with their baby. Bonding ideally needs to be established in the “Golden Hour” which is 1 hour post-delivery. There are a cascade of biochemical reactions happening at this point to help the baby re-bond with mother in post uterine life. For most mothers this process is successful but when it isn’t fully accomplished there can be feelings of anxiety, fear, sadness and shame on her part leading at times to maternal depression.
The mother is generally the closest person to the baby for the first 12 months of their life. The depth of awareness the mother has for her baby’s cues and reactions are important in accessing which attachment style is being played out. Secure attachment is the optimal style and is associated with better cognitive skills, sociability and resilience in children. It is important to note many mothers with young children are still dealing with non-optimal attachment styles with their own mothers/parents/caregivers. This can be worked on at any stage in a person’s life.
Birth trauma/ shock
The definition of birth trauma according to renowned author etc Raymond Castellino is “an injury to the infant received in or due to the process of being born” Shock is a higher degree of trauma and can put a person into a dissociative state to help protect them from undue emotional or physical stress.
This statement will resonate with many parents when they think back to the birth of their own children or even their own birth story. Issues many children and adults are facing presently can be linked back to their birth. This trauma is held within the psyche or sub-conscious mind and can influence their personality and emotional development overall.
Trauma and shock imprinting can be experienced fear, anger/rage, lack of communication, not wanting any attention or wanting to much of it and many physical issues such as sleep disturbance, appetite, motivation and effects on cognition.
Strategies are often developed by the person’s sub-conscious mind in order to keep the person “feeling safe” or “feeling themselves” this can generally be identified through the eyes. Where when stressed one eye will move in one direction and the other in the opposite direction or not at all. This is associated with a lack of hemispherical integration.
Skin to skin/bonding and attachment.
Skin to skin contact is vitally important between baby and mother right after birth. It has many positive effects on both baby and mother both physical and emotional. According to Dr Nils Bergman this important period after birth can have a very positive effect on the child’s overall future emotional and social intelligence.
This process helps to regulate baby’s:
- body temperature
- higher blood oxygen levels
- stabilise their breathing
- better breastfeeding outcomes
- better digestion of nutrients
- deeper bonding and attachment between the pair
Mothers that partake in one hour of skin to skin contact per day for the first few weeks after birth tend to have a better milk supply and have more success with feeding exclusively. Oxytocin levels increase through skin to skin contact which help reduce blood pressure and lowers stress levels which helps to combat the risk of prenatal depression. Low maternal stress levels are vital in the bonding and attachment process. Bonding is deepened through lots of touch, smiling, singing and laughter between parents and baby. This helps to form a secure attachment. Secure attachment is where the child has a deep sense of safety developed over time by having emotionally aware and available parents. According to Dr Daniel Siegel Children with secure attachment are more resilient, confidant and emotionally stable.