Many women especially mothers who have previously-unplanned or emergency C-sections are at risk for developing childbirth-related post-traumatic stress disorder (CB-PTSD). First-time mothers are more at risk for developing CB-PTSD. According to the study of hundreds of postpartum women suggests that while around 6 percent of women overall are likely to develop symptoms of CB-PTSD that number jumps to near 20 percent with an unplanned C-section.
The sense of helplessness and uncertainly and loss of control- these all put people at risk for PTSD. Especially when there’s a discrepancy between one’s planned birth and what happens.
In 2014, Tania Akhter told her story about the birth of her son. After a stalled induction and 30 hours of labor, she delivered via C- section. It wasn’t until four months later that a psychiatrist labeled her flashbacks, night terrors, and deep sadness with a name: PTSD.
“Remember that at the root of trauma is fear.” Tania says. In her case, intervention after intervention left her more scared, more sure that no one was looking out for her. When the doctors told her that both her baby and she were in distress, Tania’s heart rate was off the charts and she'd been experiencing contractions for more than a day. She could not see an outcome in which things turned out right. “That feeling that you're in danger, when it stays with you, is the essence of PTSD.”
“It’s rough,” Tania says. “It’s not just sadness. There’s some anger there, like, ‘Why did this happen to me? Why didn’t anybody help me?’ I guess they don’t help you because they don’t really know, and you need to ask, but you don’t ask.”
There are drastic biological and physiological and hormonal changes in the context of having a C-section. When other women internalize the misconceptions that a C-section and the recovery is somehow easier or as straightforward as vaginal delivery, they can be left feeling confused, depressed, and bitter, and like they’re not entitled to the help they really need.
At most hospitals, part of a postpartum evaluation is a routine screening for depression. Nobody does screening for PTSD. Considering the rate of C- section births in Bangladesh is rising, there are a lot of women who are potentially at risk.
There should be some clinical study about exactly what causes CB-PTSD and exactly who’s at risk and make sure those women start getting all the help they need. Giving birth should be one of the peak experiences in a woman’s life. As a society we really need to support the mothers and give them the best experience possible, even when things get complicated.