You Can Develop PTSD from a Traumatic Pregnancy
For some mothers, pregnancy is the happiest time in their lives.
They are glowing and craving ice cream and dreaming of holding their little one in their arms while happily setting up the perfect nursery.
For others, however, pregnancy isn't always a picture-perfect dream. For some mothers, pregnancy actually becomes a nightmare.
One mother named Louisa Leaman recently shared her own personal story of having a traumatic pregnancy after being diagnosed with placenta previa major, a complication that led to an emergency c-section of her son prematurely at 30 weeks and included “four hemorrhages, three blue-light ambulance rides, four blood transfusions, five weeks in the hospital, and two months of bed rest.”
Despite surviving the harrowing ordeal of those complications and safely bringing her son home from the NICU, Leaman found their transition into life at home as Mother and Baby wasn't exactly a happy or an easy one.
In her essay, Leaman describes the gripping, overwhelming anxiety that took over her life after her son was born. All day long, she worried about everything that could go wrong. “I began to get flashbacks: sudden, all-consuming memory remakes of the terrifying, lonely, painful bits of the pregnancy,” she described. “Night after night, I woke up panicking that I was bleeding to death, actually checking the bed sheets because the feeling was so real.”
Her feelings interfered with her ability to bond with her son. “I almost didn't dare let myself love him because I was so frightened of losing him,” she said.
As it turns out, Leaman actually had developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from her pregnancy because it had been so traumatic. I never even realized such a thing was possible, but apparently it is and it might be more common than you realize.
Leaman's story has a happy ending because she did one very important thing: she sought help for herself. She talked to two different doctors and sought out professional therapy. She didn't write off her feelings or hide them or tell herself they would go away. She acknowledged them, knew enough to realize they were not normal, and then she took action to get better. She enrolled in talk therapy with cognitive behavioral therapy and found the relief she had been searching for.
I think her message is so important, especially to women in this country, where pregnancy and motherhood are expected to be picture perfect and Instagram worthy. We all need to realize that sometimes pregnancy is so traumatic that it may lead us to need therapy, and there is absolutely no shame in that.
“Ten months on, and I'm still reveling in my therapy high,” Leaman concluded her story. “I see life differently, not just in relation to my awful pregnancy, but in other ways, too. I don't worry about the little things. I sleep better, I feel more focused, more content, more empowered. The ultimate reward, however, is that I am now free to love and enjoy my son in the way he deserves: happy, calm, and confident. And I feel I'm raising a happy, calm, confident child.”
Just remember: when you seek help for your mental health as a mother, it's not even just all about you. It's about your entire family.
Did you have a traumatic pregnancy?