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PTSD and pregnancy

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 
I have complex PTSD. I'm not in therapy right now, but I have a therapist with whom I've worked for a long time who's available to me whenever I need her (by phone and by appointment). I'm on lexapro, and I've done EMDR which de-sensitized me to most of my triggers, and gave me tools to handle those that remain.

I'm not pregnant (yet) but I hope to be soon, and I'm interested in hearing from other women with PTSD who've BTDT. Did your symptoms increase? Was there any dovetailing of the pregnancy related stresses and your triggers?

Thanks in advance.

(If this has been discussed ad nauseam before, my apologies. I scrolled through the history, some, and didn't see a thread like this one.)
post #2 of 6
The idea of having PTSD is relatively new to me, though I do believe I definately have it. It's more I never realised that's what it was until recently, so I have a hard time making the connection between PTSD and the things I am experiencing in life.

That said, I don't think I had any troubles during pregnancy or child birth relating to these issues. Though I'll have to think about it some more. My biggest problem was with breastfeeding, and handling the physical feeling of BFing. I didn't have trouble with that at first, but lately I definately have been. I have been going through an extremely hard time lately, and I noticed that right when the sh** hit the fan, that's when BFing started to feel scary to me. I have to look at DD and physically think about what we're doing, and tell myself that the feeling is because of the comfort and nutrition that she is receiving. It's a really difficult thing to deal with.

Going to have to think about the rest some more... Keep in mind that I definately need some therapy but am not currently receiving any, don't know a whole lot about PTSD, EMDR, etc... but due to social anxiety & monetary issues... I haven't taken that plunge yet. So I don't think I'm entirely aware of my issues and how they are affecting my life.

That probably doesn't help... but I wanted to at least chime in with what I knew. Hopefully it made some sense. All the best luck to you.
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
It does help, actually, and I'll be interested to hear what else you come up with, if you want to talk aboiut it here. Thanks!
post #4 of 6
I am not in therapy nor have been for a long long time, but I thought I would chime in...I went through treatment for PTSD some years ago with a grrrreat LiCSW and when I went through childbirth it did affect me - I had my ds at a birthing center with a midwife and no drugs...

I think everyone's situation is different, but I found that although I rationally knew that my body needed to *birth* my baby, when I went through the laboring process I just panicked once I couldn't "control" the pain. I went through a lot of prodromal labor and would get way too excited (read: nervous) about it, but much of the pain in the beginning was tolerable enough to relax through with breathing and positioning. Once I got into the thick of it, it was not pleasant and it did stir up way too many feelings (but not necessary visual memories/flashbacks) of loss of control, desperation, pain, etc. I felt at the time that I wanted to let my body go and trust it in the process but I couldn't and I kept "seizing up".

I had a lot of success with the use of hypnosis in therapy to get through that outer "protective" layer I sort of subconsciously put up I think as a part of the PTSD so I was thinking of trying hypnobirthing or hypnobabies next time around...and much much more practice at the actual act of relaxing. it is truly a learned skill and for someone with PTSD I think it is far too easy for your "fight or flight" system to be activated when there isn't sufficient cause for it to be.

Also, it helped me to read and read and read and read stories about women who were able to be strong through their pregnancy and childbirth experiences. Ina May Gaskin's books helped me alot for example...

Good luck...HTH's a little...
post #5 of 6
I also was diagnosed with complex ptsd two years ago this month. I have not gone through pregnancy since then. I do know that when I did go through my pregnancies I felt like I had to endure the pain and make it through. I know that this stems from my abuse; like a control thing. If I can control myself through it and make it through, then I win. It's really kind of weird, but that's the way it was. My therapist already told me to get an epidural because of my past, but I will not do that unless I have to.

I think part of my problem with being in the hospital was the loss of control. Being strapped to a monitor and effectlvely told to stay in bed while I labored. No wonder I felt so trapped in my pain when I didn't have any means of relieving it with water or moving, etc. My midwife knows about the ptsd, and also agrees with my therapist that no person with a history of sexual abuse should go through labor naturally. I really disagree with that. I want to feel empowered by the experience. And I want to replace the pain of the abuse with the wonderful "pain" of childbirth. I know that seems weird, but I'm being really truthful here. I would try hypnobirthing but it seems so close to dissociating...I don't wish to miss the experience.

I had no problems breastfeeding. I'm still BF'ing my youngest who is 28 months old. I, too, got great comfort in Ina May's books because she relates that birthing can be a very sexual experience and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is talked about openly. I consider this a wonderful thing to happen in childbirth...what a way to end a long journey from the initial lovemaking that resulted in conception to giving birth with the help of your husband, also in an intimate, intense way.

I would make sure that you know your ptsd inside an out. What are your triggers? What happens when you have them? How do you cope with the reactions? Are they sexual in nature? Do they involve pain? Do you dissociate easily? Etc. The more you know how you are going to react, the better prepared you will be. I also think you need to consider birthing where you feel the most in control. I think that is HUGE. For me, the losing control thing freaked me out. If I could have been able to control my labor from start to finish, I think I would have fared much better.

Another thing to remember is to stay in the here and now. If a flashback does happen, push it back in your mind and deal with it later, after your labor. I have gotten good at this and I don't consider it harmful, but more of a helpful reaction so I don't go somewhere else, kwim? I've done this when I used to get flashbacks/panic attacks at work. I pushed it away and functioned for the rest of my shift until I had time to deal with it. I can't imagine having flashbacks/panic attacks while in labor.....that could be really hard to deal with.

On a happy note, though, is that you have persevered; obviously you've been through alot. You are strong even if you don't feel like it. You are still here when other people would have broken under the same stress. I believe that when horror/terror comes upon us and we still make it to the other side still in one piece and with our mind intact, we are very brave and strong, indeed. I wish you the very best. Please PM me if you would like more information.
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
These posts are SO helpful to me--thank you so much!

We just wrapped up our first ttc cycle--it's likely that I conceived but it didn't stick--and we're going to try again this month.

I have Gaskin's Spiritual Midwifery waiting for me at home, and requests on her other books through our library, so I'm glad to hear that I'm on the right track with that.

megjo, what you had to say about triggers was really interesting--mine are temperature (if I get too warm), hunger, and feeling trapped, so I can see where having control over the birthing process will be really important for me.

I haven't been in therapy for a while, now, but once I'm pregnant, I'm going to go back for some tune-ups with my therapist, and possibly for more EMDR, depending on how the pregnancy goes for me.

My hope is to have a med-free birth. I've tossed around the hypnobirthing idea, but I haven't made any firm decisions about it at this point. And, well, nothin' but time, right?

I hope that we can keep this conversation going--for ourselves as well as for women who may be struggling but not ready to talk about it.
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