Fiona Rogerson – Perinatal and Trauma Counselling

Understanding Gaslighting in Birth Trauma

Birth Trauma Gaslighting Fiona Rogerson


Understanding gaslighting in birth trauma


“Medical professionals know best. They know more about birth than me, so I’m sure they did everything right.”

“Birth is meant to be that way. Your birth experience was quite normal.”

“At least your experience wasn’t as bad as [other person]’s.”

“I’m too sensitive. It’s over now and I’m just dwelling in the past.”

“Plenty of women have it worse than me.”


These are some examples of gaslighting and self-gaslighting that can occur after a difficult or traumatic birth.


Gaslighting is a tactic that can occur in various relationships, including romantic partnerships, family relationships, friendships, workplace connections, and even with medical professionals.


It involves the undermining of someone’s perceptions, experiences, or understanding of events, causing them to question or doubt themselves.


When navigating birth and birth trauma, both external gaslighting (from others) and self-gaslighting (from self) can add further distress and confusion.

What is Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a term used to describe a psychologically manipulative behaviour that erodes an individual’s confidence in their own experiences and reality.


It can happen intentionally and unintentionally.

Medical gaslighting

Whether intentional or not, gaslighting can occur within the medical field, and has a profound impact on individuals who have experienced birth trauma.


Medical gaslighting may look like a medical professional dismissing, invalidating, or even undermining a patient’s experiences, concerns, or symptoms related to their birth experience.


In some instances this happens unintentionally, usually when the professional doesn’t know how to respond to a situation.


Gaslighting from healthcare professionals can be particularly harmful as it exacerbates the emotional distress and trauma already being experienced.


Additionally, dismissing or questioning a patient’s experience can fuel self-gaslighting, which contributes to an individual’s feelings of self-blame and inadequacy.



Self-gaslighting is usually a response to trauma and can show up in a number of ways.


All of us will second guess or doubt ourselves at some point in life. However, when that self-doubt is about painful or traumatic experiences (such as birth trauma) and leaves someone feeling responsible for what happened to them – it’s possible they may be gaslighting themselves about their own experience.


This can sound like:


“Medical professionals know best. They know more about birth than me, so I’m sure they did everything right.”

We trust their expertise, but it’s important to remember that our voice and intuition matter too. You have the right to advocate for your needs and question decisions made during your birth journey.


“It happens to everyone. I’m overreacting.”

You might feel like you’re exaggerating or overreacting. But remember, your feelings are valid. Each person’s experience is unique, and your emotions deserve to be acknowledged.


“Birth is meant to be that way. My birth experience was completely normal.”

Society often paints an idealised picture of birth, leaving many to believe that their traumatic experience was just a part of the process. But no one should endure unnecessary suffering. Your birth experience matters, and it’s okay to seek support and healing.


“It’s just my hormones making me feel this way. It wasn’t that bad.”

Our hormones can influence our emotions, but that doesn’t diminish the impact of your birth trauma. Don’t let anyone dismiss your feelings by attributing them solely to hormonal changes.


“I’m too sensitive. It’s over now and I’m just dwelling in the past.”

It’s common to downplay our emotions, labelling ourselves as overly sensitive. Remember, healing is a personal journey, and acknowledging your emotions is a sign of strength, not weakness.


“Plenty of women have it worse than me.”

Comparing your experience to others might make you feel guilty for seeking support or acknowledging your pain. Remember, your story is valid, regardless of how it compares to others. You deserve healing and validation.


“Am I sure that’s what really happened? Maybe I’m remembering it wrong?”

Doubting your own memories and perceptions is a common aspect of self-gaslighting. Trust yourself and your recollections. Your truth matters, and your experience is valid.

6 signs someone may be gaslighting themself over their own birth experience

The above examples show just how easy it can be for us to gaslight ourselves after a challenging experience. Some of the common ways in which someone may gaslight themself include:

1.    Minimising their experience – downplaying the intensity or impact of birth trauma

2.    Blaming themself – assuming responsibility for the traumatic experience

3.    Invalidating their emotions – dismissing or devaluing their own emotions surrounding their birth experience

4.    Questioning their memory – second-guessing their own recollection of events

5.    Seeking constant reassurance – relying on external validation to affirm the reality of their birth trauma

6.    Dismissing their need for support – neglecting their own needs for support.


Unlearning self-gaslighting and healing from birth trauma requires safe spaces where emotions can be processed, and individuals can seek support from understanding professionals who draw on trauma-sensitive language.


By understanding how gaslighting can unintentionally show up in our conversations with clients, we can be more mindful of the impact our words can have.


Providing trauma-sensitive care involves active listening, validating experiences and using language that acknowledges the reality and emotions of an individual.


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? Download our free resource on The First-Steps Guide to Trauma-Responsive Care


Inside you will discover five simple and actionable tips that will provide you with the clarity and confidence you need to respond to trauma effectively, so your clients will not only feel safe when working with you, but you will be supporting them to gain the maximum impact from your care.


Together, we can create a culture of empathy, validation and trauma-sensitive care within the birth and perinatal space, to support our clients to feel heard, validated and supported on their journey towards healing after birth trauma.


Download the free resource for professionals on trauma-sensitive language: Download

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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. 

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

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