Fiona Rogerson – Perinatal and Trauma Counselling

These do NOT cause birth trauma – 3 common birth trauma myths dispelled

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These do NOT cause birth trauma  – 3 common birth trauma myths dispelled


Birth trauma is a complex issue. While some women may experience trauma from the physiological experience of giving birth, up to 67% of women connect the source of their trauma to the interactions of caregivers.

It’s essential to recognise that the harm caused by the systems involved in childbirth contributes significantly to perinatal trauma.

Part of understanding this harm is learning where we are making assumptions about the causes of birth trauma that are just not true. These incorrect assumptions lead many women to stay silent about their suffering and can further intensify experiences of trauma.

That’s why, today, I’m dispelling a few of the most common assumptions made about birth trauma.

ASSUMPTION #1: Birth trauma is caused by a woman’s lack of education around birth

I can’t emphasise this enough – birth trauma is NOT caused by a lack of education, and projecting this notion onto someone is not only harmful, it is in fact victim-blaming.

Birth trauma happens when a real or perceived event during labour or birth causes an individual’s nervous system and normal coping mechanism to become overwhelmed in response to the perception of threat. ‘Perception of threat’ is the key point here. Birth trauma is related to lack of innate safety.

Someone can experience trauma in any aspect of their birth (and education has no bearing on this) – from feeling dismissed by caregivers, unnecessary interventions or lack of communication from staff, or physical injury to the mother or baby – to experiencing of uncontrollability of events around the birth, difficulties during conception and pregnancy, admission to NICU, premature birth….

Knowing this, it just doesn’t make sense to suggest that birth trauma is caused by a lack of education.

The notion that birth trauma has something to do with the level of a woman’s education around birth places an unfair burden on women.

The burden on mothers is heavy enough – this shouldn’t be added to it.

ASSUMPTION #2: Birth trauma is caused by having high expectations

Birth trauma is not caused by having high expectations. In fact, women SHOULD have high expectations!

It’s high expectations that can help ensure that they receive the best possible care and support during what is often a challenging and life-changing event.

However, birth trauma is NOT caused by those expectations.

Instead, trauma happens when a real or perceived event causes a threat to safety, where an individual’s nervous system is completely overwhelmed, bringing intense feelings of horror, terror, hopelessness or helplessness.

An expectation IS NOT a threat to safety.

And, birth trauma is no different. Someone can experience trauma in any aspect of their birth where the safety of themselves or their baby is threatened.

As mentioned above, this can be something that occurs during childbirth, or something that occurs around the birth…

…NOT from having high expectations.

ASSUMPTION #3: Birth trauma is caused by a lack of self-advocacy

Let’s be clear – birth trauma is NOT caused by a lack of self-advocacy. And, placing the blame onto women for not advocating strongly enough during birth is entirely unfair.

Birth trauma occurs when a real or perceived event threatens the safety and wellbeing of mother and/or baby, causing overwhelm to the nervous system and leading to intense feelings of distress, fear or helplessness. Self-advocacy, while important, cannot prevent trauma in situations where the system itself fails to provide proper care, support and communication.

It is not on women to hold the burden of responsibility.

Maternity care providers and the healthcare system as a whole, must take a more comprehensive approach to reduce the risks of trauma occurring during birth.

ASSUMPTION #4: Birth trauma is caused by insufficient preparation

Time to dispel this myth too – birth trauma is definitely NOT caused by insufficient preparation.

The notion that someone can avoid trauma simply by being more prepared is untrue and harmful (and again, it is victim-blaming).

In reality, no amount of preparation can fully shield someone from potential complications, medical emergencies, or inadequate care from caregivers during birth.

It’s crucial to recognise that birth trauma can occur regardless of how prepared someone is. Instead of focusing on individual preparation, we must instead address systemic preparedness to provide environments that prioritise the safety, wellbeing and emotional support of mothers during childbirth.

Building safer communities for care and healing

By acknowledging these truths, we’re placing responsibility where it ACTUALLY belongs.

Rather than placing undue blame, shame and guilt onto women, we need to be able to openly discuss where the system is causing harm in order to make changes that reduce trauma for parents… starting with the inadequate training in trauma-responsive practice for maternity care providers that too often leaves women, families AND care providers themselves at risk of experiencing trauma.

Women aren’t to blame for the trauma they experience. We need to challenge this rhetoric.

Do you want to learn the very first steps that can make a difference in supporting individuals who have experienced trauma during pregnancy or childbirth? I unpack the keys to trauma-sensitive language in this free resource for perinatal professionals: The First-Steps Guide to Trauma-Responsive Care.

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Let's get to know each other

My name is Fiona Rogerson and I am a registered Trauma and Perinatal Perth Counsellor and Childbirth Educator. I work with women and men to overcome emotional and psychological hurdles surrounding birth trauma, childhood trauma, traumatic experiences, as well as conception, pregnancy, postpartum, parenting and identity.  I am also available to provide supervision, mentoring and professional development training and workshops.  I am based south of the river in Perth. 

Work with me

To work with me, email at fiona@fionarogerson.com.au or phone 0402 017 425.

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