If you’re pregnant, the odds are good that someone has told you a delivery-room horror story or two already. However, the person who really should be giving you the scary details of your potential experience may not even say a word.
It’s your doctor.
There’s a pervasive idea that women somehow should be shielded from the potential harsh realities of childbirth so that they aren’t scared off the process. That leaves many new mothers unprepared for the potential complications.
Those women often end up feeling like their trust has been abused and their bodies violated. Physically, they may suffer from fistulas, vaginal prolapses, torn vaginal and anal openings or spinal injuries. They can also end up psychologically scarred with chronic anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Medical professionals have known since at least 2006 that women who experience problems during the delivery of their children can suffer serious psychological trauma as a result. Whether the vaginal birth is assisted by the brutal use of forceps or a hurried C-section is accomplished after the vaginal delivery goes wrong — even if the baby is fine, the mother might not be.
Many women have actually likened an uninformed birth to a rape. They felt exposed, helpless, vulnerable and exploited. Others felt humiliated and threatened by the very medical professionals who were supposed to be caring for them.
Doctors have also known for a long time that psychological trauma can be prevented by warning the mother-to-be about the potential complications of childbirth. A fully-informed patient is less likely to feel as if everything is happening without her consent or forced into split-second decisions.
It’s also important for the medical staff to be responsive the mother’s needs and emotions. Women who feel bullied into agreeing to unwanted medical procedures by nonsupportive or outright hostile medical professionals are far more likely to suffer PTSD after childbirth.
Doctors also shouldn’t decide to keep information from already fearful patients, either. Addressing those fears in advance of the actual experience can help alleviate them. Doctors can also send their anxious patients for counseling prior to the birth.
For your part, sit down with your doctor and insist on discussing the potential complications of childbirth. Try to develop a plan — in advance — for how things will be handled. If your doctor isn’t supportive now, it would be wise to find a new one before the birth.