- Brian felt responsible, that he had somehow let his wife down after she suffered a very traumatic birth. Brian felt terribly guilty that he had not done more and found it difficult to forgive himself for not being able to prevent her pain.
- Nick’s fiancée developed pre-eclampsia which progressed to HELLP Syndrome when being induced. Eighteen months later they are still coming to terms with both post natal depression and birth related PTSD.
- Gary felt extremely traumatised by what he saw in the delivery room and says he sometimes feels detached from his daughter.
Help for partners and family
Below, we have set out some basic advice for partners. However, we realise that not all women have partners to turn to so although we use the word 'partners', this advice is also intended to apply to anyone (friend or family) who is looking for ways to help a birth traumatised woman or, indeed, for help for their own feelings after witnessing a traumatic birth.
Volunteer Father/Partner Supporters
How can I help my partner who has been going through a terrible time after the birth of our child?
Living with a woman who has suffered a traumatic birth experience can be very upsetting, difficult and frustrating. It is very likely that the partner was the only person present at the birth that she knew and trusted. The partner is likely to be only other person who has shared the whole experience with her and is in a unique position to be able to offer support. Be prepared to seek help from wherever you can - for the mother, yourself and your family’s sake.
There are many things that you can do to help:
- Encourage the mother to seek help from a GP, health visitor or friends (see other parts of this website for sources of support) and talk to someone in depth.
- Encourage her to look at this website and talk to us.
- Remind her that she is not going mad and will get better.
- Reassure her of your support and that you will not abandon her.
- Try to find out as much as you can about birth trauma, and if necessary be prepared to fight for the necessary professional support for your wife/partner and yourself.
However hard it is, please try not to:
- Tell her to ‘pull yourself together’. She is already feeling bad about herself and is doing her best.
- Ignore or dismiss her feelings.
- Walk out on her or distance yourself from her however difficult or impossible it seems.
All of these will make the situation worse.
I witnessed my child’s birth and my mind is now full of distressing images that won’t go away. Could I be traumatised too?
Partners are very likely to have been present at the birth and witnessed the distress and pain of their wife or partner. The feeling of helplessness for the one you love can be extremely upsetting and the experience is likely to have also been very traumatic for the dad.
Seek professional help from your GP or other health professional if you feel the birth experience has affected you personally and continues to affect your daily life.
Much of the guidance on this website for women can also be related to the partner’s feelings about the birth experience (eg. fear, lack of control, lack of information, not being listened to) and it is important to seek help and support as early as possible for everyone’s sake.