PTSD After Pregnancy: What Is It And How To Seek Help

Many people assume that if a mother and baby are healthy, then all is well. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Many women have traumatic pregnancy and birth experiences, which can influence their mental health. In fact, research shows that around 4-5% of women who give birth develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

It could be that the pregnancy or birth involved unplanned interventions, or perhaps you didn’t feel listened to during your experience. It’s important that you feel you are being listened to and that you can express your feelings. You’re not alone, but it can be difficult to fully express how you feel and the effect your experience has had on you.


ptsd pregnancy


Effects Of A Traumatic Birth


Experiencing a traumatic birth can affect people in different ways. You may need time to accept what happened to you, or to understand what happened. It may leave you feeling that you can’t bond with your baby, or it may affect your relationship with your family and friends.

If you feel this way, it may be PTSD. It can occur immediately after birth, or weeks, months, or even years later.




Everyone has their own experience, but here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Flashbacks or nightmares of the traumatic event. You may feel very distressed and panicky during and after these.
  • Avoiding things that remind of your pregnancy or birth experience. This could mean avoiding situations where you would meet other new mums, and their babies, or avoiding the hospital, or GP surgery.
  • Blocking out emotions (emotional numbing) and trying to distract yourself from what happened
  • Feeling hyper-vigilant, so you feel irritable and anxious.
  • Outbursts of anger and difficulty sleeping
  • Headaches and stomach pains
  • Difficulty sleeping


You can understand more about what you might experience on Mind’s website here.


Help And Support


It’s very important that any woman suffering from PTSD after a traumatic pregnancy or birth experience has the appropriate help and support.




Talking about your experience can feel impossible, but it can help you to process what happened. You might consider starting by talking to a family member or close friend. You may also think about talking to someone who has experience in pregnancy and birth but was not involved in your experience. Many NHS Trusts have a birth reflections service which would allow you to speak to someone professional, who would also have access to your notes. This person may be able to help explain to you where things didn’t go as you expected them to or explain why things happened the way they did.

While this may help your understanding, it may not resolve your symptoms. You might also think about support groups where you can talk to people who have had similar experiences when you feel ready to do so. The Birth Trauma Association or PANDAS might have support groups and contact points to suit your needs.


Emergency Help


If you need emergency help, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123, or SANEline on 0300 304 7000. NHS 111 may be able to help and is available 24 hours a day. You could also try calling your local GP. They will have a recorded message of emergency numbers during out of hours.


Psychological Therapies


CBT, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and EMDR, Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing both show success in treating PTSD.

CBT is a talking therapy which encourages you to find ways to think about things differently and change your actions. During therapy sessions your therapist may ask you to focus on the incident itself and identify beliefs that may be unhelpful to your wellbeing.

EMDR uses a combination of eye movements, sounds and taps whilst you talk about your traumatic experience.


Relaxation Techniques


Some relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, breathing techniques, and meditation may help you cope. You can ask your GP or support services for advice or referrals.