EMDR and birth trauma
What is EMDR therapy?
Like many, you may have heard of EMDR Therapy but are unsure about EMDR and birth trauma, what it is or how it works. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing. It is a well-documented and supported psychotherapy that involves structured work with memories of events or experiences, bodily or somatic sensations, core self beliefs, and emotions to lessen the intensity of the emotional, bodily, and thought remnants of painful past experiences. EMDR works to diminish or weaken the magnitude or severity of the continued experience of that memory without eliminating the memory itself. It works immediately and can reduce trauma symptoms, such as flashbacks, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and intrusive memories, quickly.
For many it is life changing. Which is why I went forward to pursue training in it. I’ve experienced it myself and I know it works.
How does EMDR work?
Our brains have an innate natural ability to process events and experiences adaptively, allow these experiences to almost be filed away in their correct place in the timeline of our lives. We can remember them as a part of our past, and the associated memories don’t have the bodily or emotional impact that they did when the event occurred. However some experiences, for example traumatic events, aren’t processed or filed away as they should be. And some time later the memory of these unprocessed events brings with it all of the images, sensations, emotions, and thoughts that were experienced when it first happened. EMDR works by using eye movements to stimulate the brain to process and file these memories. An experience that may have triggered a negative response may no longer affect a person in the same maladaptive way as EMDR works to Desensitise the severity of the experience, then Reprocess it by linking it to more positive memories.
What is involved in EMDR?
EMDR has 8 phases, where we work together to gently identify the target memories within your birth experience that are causing present distress. We don’t focus on details or events. We provide visceral tools and techniques to give you resources for processing your experience so that you are fully held and supported. We then use eye movements or other forms of bilateral simulation, such as sound, to process those memories, creating distance between the past and present, and desensitising the ongoing affects of that experience. From there we use a similar process to install positive beliefs about yourself to replace negative beliefs and affects associated with the memory of your birth experience, so that you are able to move forward with a more positive core belief about yourself.
This process can take place over the course of 3 sessions for some, and longer for others, depending on what is required for the client to feel fully prepared for processing to take place.
How is EMDR used in birth trauma?
EMDR can be used to process varying traumatic birth experiences, including lengthy/painful labour; induction; feelings of loss of control; not being heard or validated in the birth space; emergency deliveries; unwanted or high levels of intervention; lack of communication; lack of privacy; fear for your life or that of your baby’s; NICU stays; birth injuries to baby or mother; poor pain relief; poor postpartum care; pregnancy loss; still birth; and feelings of abandonment in birth.
What else can EMDR help with in the perinatal period?
- PTSD – From recent or past events, including birth and postpartum. Some hospital experiences, such as time in the NICU or birth-related surgeries, can lead to feelings of helplessness, hyper vigilance and panic.
- Grief and loss – pregnancy or infant loss, grief surrounding events of birth, previous losses that may impact parenting.
- Fertility – Fertility struggles impact many, and this can be considered reproductive trauma for some. EMDR can target memories of emotional losses, physical pain, and loss of dignity.
- Childhood/previous trauma – Past abuse (including sexual assault) that has been triggered by pregnancy, birth or parenting.
- Previous mental health difficulties – Previous experience of postpartum depression or anxiety and some of the memories that linger may be distressing.
- Trouble with negative beliefs about yourself: I am not safe, I am a failure, I am helpless, I did something wrong, I am worthless, I am a bad parent/person, related to pregnancy/birth/parenting.
Can EMDR help me?
EMDR was primarily established as an effective treatment approach post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), though has shown to effectively address trauma, anxiety, depression, and grief, among other difficulties. EMDR isn’t suitable for everyone, though your counsellor or therapist will use a range of therapeutic tools in determining if EMDR will be of benefit to you.
How to find an EMDR therapist?
As with any therapy, the relationship is key. Finding a therapist is not always easy and not every therapist will be the fit. This relationship can take some time to develop, but make sure if you do NOT feel comfortable, or if it feels unsafe in any way, that you address this with your therapist or try to find someone else to work with. With trauma work specifically be sure the person you see can authentically connect with you and is experienced in the area you are looking to work on.
EMDR itself is a specialised training that requires a therapist with specific accredited EMDR training, and ongoing consultation with other EMDR therapists.
To find out more about how I can help you with EMDR and birth trauma, or to book your initial session with me, head to EMDR Therapy.
My name is Fiona Rogerson and I am an ACA accredited counsellor, and Hypnobirthing (Mongan Method) Practitioner. I work with women and men to overcome emotional and psychological hurdles surrounding conception, pregnancy, postpartum, parenting and identity. I am also available to provide professional development training and workshops to various organisations. I am based south of the river in Perth and can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0402 017 425 or via my contact page. Find me on Facebook and Instagram.