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Medical-Related PTSD Part One: Birth Trauma

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Diagnosed With Medical PTSD and now Sharing my Story to Raise Awareness

Ever since I was diagnosed with medical-related PTSD, I’ve been afraid to tell my story. I’ve been afraid of people’s thoughts and knew that a lot of people would have a hard time understanding.

In the military community, PTSD is a very serious thing. Since I partly write a military blog, I wasn’t sure how my writing about this topic would be taken. I definitely don’t want my topic to shadow the importance of combat-related PTSD and the public’s knowledge and awareness of it.

On the other hand, medical-related PTSD is very real and very unknown to the public. I knew I had to share my story so that I could bring anybody awareness and hopefully to help others who may have gone through the same thing. This is a very tough topic for me and it’s been very hard, but also cathartic for me to write about.

I’ve had anxiety my whole life, but the severity of it started with the birth of my son. Very few know everything that happened during that time and it’s taken me years to even understand the severity of it all.

Birth Trauma

Medical-Related PTSD: Birth Trauma

I was in labor for a total of 24 hours with my son. Somewhere in those hours I was told that I had to be given pitocin (against my wishes) due to the birth not progressing. I was upset, but nothing I said changed the nurse’s minds. I finally gave in because I thought that maybe they were right and it was necessary.

Fast-forward to the end of those 24 hours of labor. I had been pushing for almost an hour and the doctor insisted that my son wasn’t going to fit. She said I needed an episiotomy. I told her no, that I didn’t want one, but she kept pushing me to get it done. She threatened me with fear, telling me that if the baby didn’t come out soon I was going to need a c-section.

I said yes, but only because I felt I had no other choice. She told me she was going to cut me on the count of three and that I was to push at the same time. On three, my son came shooting out. It happened all at once and surprised me because I thought his head was supposed to come first, then his shoulders, and then the rest of his body.

What has shocked me the most (in years to come) about this situation and the need for an episiotomy, was that my son was a small 6 pounds. 9 ounces. He was not a 8 or 9 pound baby. So why the need for the episiotomy? Why tell me that there was no way he was going to fit?

While my son was being cleaned up, the doctor started stitching me up. She thought it was just a small part that needed stitching, but as she was about to finish she realized it was much bigger then she thought. TWO HOURS later she finished stitching me up. At this point, I had no idea why it took this long or what had happened, I just assumed this was apart of the “normal” birth process.

The next day a new doctor came to see me. She sat with me, my mom, and my mother-in-law and told us just exactly what had happened the night before. I had torn to the fourth degree.

Fourth-degree vaginal tears are the most severe. They involve the perineal muscles and anal sphincter as well as the tissue lining the rectum. Fourth-degree tears usually require repair in an operating room — rather than the delivery room — and might take months to heal.” – MayoClinic.org

I was put on bed rest and told I was not allowed to pick up my baby, only have him brought to me. I was not allowed to walk around or walk up and down the stairs. I was told that if I didn’t listen to these instructions, and if I re-opened the tear that had been stitched up that there was a good chance I would be in diapers for the rest of my life due to incontinence.

I went home shocked. For weeks I could barely walk. I needed help just to get to the bathroom and to go to the bathroom, and I needed help showering. Ice packs and sits baths were now a part of the my daily routine.

I was not allowed to carry my son, I was only allowed to hold him when I was sitting. I was not able to change his diapers or even get up and get him in the middle of the night if he cried. He was always brought to me and I did my best to be his mom those first few weeks from my bed.

During this time I also developed a strange rash. It started to spread all over my body and although we tried to figure out the cause, we never did. For over a month I was in agony; constantly itching, and never being able to sleep due to the severity of it. My husband bought every anti-itch cream in the market, we spend hundreds trying to find a cure, but nothing helped. The doctors were clueless as well and no amount of medicines or steroid shots helped.

My anxiety was at an all-time high at this point. I could barely function. I couldn’t take care of my son, or myself. I spent most of my days crying and searching the internet for some kind of cure. It wasn’t until my mother-in-law (who had stayed a month with us to help out) told me that I needed to get some help, perhaps some counseling. That was when I first realized how bad things had gotten.

The story doesn’t end there of course, this is just the first part. The next few parts are a bit different and are the ones that really led to me getting diagnosed with medical-related PTSD earlier this year. I hope that you will come back and read and follow along in my story and that you will share to raise awareness.

You can read more about my birth trauma from the posts I journaled right after it happened:

Recovering From Birth | And the Recovery Goes On… | Health Update | Getting Answers

Do you have a birth trauma story? I would love to hear it and share to help raise awareness!

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  1. HUGS! I know medical PTSD is real – it is very real! I am so sorry you had that experience and it’s heart wrenching to think how it affected you for years to come.

    I don’t think doctors realize how powerful they are, how we hang on their every word, their tone of voice and their expressions. We trust them and rely on them – we look for comfort in their eyes, search for reassurance in their voice – and when we don’t find it, when we are brushed off, not treated with respect we are left with scars and wounds that take FOREVER to heal.

    Thank you for sharing so openly – I will be checking back to read the rest.

  2. Thanks for sharing your story. PTSD is real even off the battlefield. I too experienced trauma after being in labor for 40 hours and then doing a C-Section for the birth of my firstborn. My blood pressure bottomed out and I woke up to several doctors and like 8 nurses going crazy in my room trying to reverse my medication immediately for fears of it getting worse. My mom was with me and her face was white. I also could not feel my chest and legs for a couple of hours. When my husband came up after being with the baby, he said I was ice cold. I was in seclusion for 24 hours with no visitors and lights dim. I took longer than normal recovery. For months afterward I would panic from just closing my eyes for fear of waking up not knowing what was happening to me or my baby. After becoming non functional, I was diagnosed with PTSD. For my second child, I relived my anxiety even more. So I relate a little to you. Thanks for making people aware.

  3. Wow , your topic caught my eye. I have been feeling like the birth of my son has traumatized me. (&the recovery from both births). But mine doesnt affecting me everyday, I literally have flashbacks when I think about intimacy with my husband, or when he makes a mob and I know whats on his mind. I feel like my brain has linked pregnancy & pain with intimacy. I had a surprise home birth with no medication (&no time to mentally prepare for giving birth so quickly & nonmedicated). I also had a hard time recovering, transitioning from 1 to 2 children (feeling extreme guilt & overwhelmed), & extreme pain for the first 2-3 weeks of breastfeeding (I felt like giving up every single feeding, dreaded nursing, felt like my nipples were being cut off). I need to get this figured out because its a problem to not have intimacy in a marriage. My youngest son is almost 6 months now btw. And my heart goes out to you for your labor and delivery and such bad tears. I never knew that recovery post birthvcould be so much worse than delivery (my experience with first son)

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I am so so sorry to hear your story. If it’s possible, go talk to someone about this – a counselor can help and has helped me make some serious strides toward healing. Praying for your family.

  4. You are most definitely not alone. My first birth story is very similar to yours with the exception of my doctor using vacuum assisted delivery in addition to the episiotomy against my wishes. After that ordeal and exceptionally long healing time, I developed post-partum depression and was so traumatized by what happened to me that I was terrified of having another child for 6 long years.

    1. Wow sounds very similiar to my story. It’s so sad that our birth stories are filled with such trauma, but it’s nice to know we’re not alone. We almost didn’t have another child due to the trauma, but I am so glad I did have one more even if it was via c-section the second time around.

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