Understanding Birth Trauma

July 19 2021

With 1 in 3 women identifying their birth as traumatic, there is much work to be done in the prevention and treatment of birth trauma in Australia and New Zealand.

The delivery of a baby is a positive event for many women, but for some it can be a mixed experience or even very negative, resulting in physical and/or psychological injuries (trauma) with lasting negative impacts on their lives.

Birth Trauma Awareness Week aims to help women and their partners who are struggling with ongoing problems related to the birthing experience.

Birth trauma is a wound, serious injury or damage – it can be physical or psychological (deeply upsetting and distressing) or a combination of both. Both mother and the father/partner can be affected by birth trauma. For mums, please keep reading for further information relating to types of physical and psychological trauma and steps to follow to get help. Information is also available especially for Fathers & Partners and Friends and Family.


Physical trauma (birth injuries) may or may not be identified straight away. You may be the first to notice that something isn’t right. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is important to understand that physical birth injuries may require you to seek expert medical advice and assessment.

Physical trauma can present as:

  • Perineal tears
  • Pelvic floor muscle damage
  • Pelvic organ prolapse (POP)
  • Pelvic fractures (public bone, coccyx, sacrum)
  • Cesarean wounds


Psychological trauma may arise as a result of an extreme disconnect between an expectation of what would happen and what actually happened during the birth. For example, huge value could be placed on having a calm and natural birth and if this type of imagined birth doesn’t occur, many new mothers feel a sense of failure which can be made worse by feelings of not being prepared for an outcome that they didn’t expect.

The shock of what actually happened during birth can bring about a number of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and other disorders. Some people experience severe emotional distress after a traumatic birth even though there was no physical trauma. It is also important to note that trauma can continue long after the birth, with distinct psychological symptoms.

Psychological trauma can present as:

  • Postnatal depression and/or anxiety (PNDA)
  • Post-partum post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) (For example obsessive thoughts that can affect our behaviour such as checking on baby constantly or recurring thoughts that impact your enjoyment of daily life).

This Birth Trauma Awareness Week (15-25 July 2021), let’s help The Australasian Birth Trauma Association (ABTA) raise $50,000 to expand their support service across Australia. With your help, we can ensure no familyis left feeling alone and unheard after experiencing birth-related trauma.

For more information visit, The Australasian Birth Trauma (ABTA) page.


Article originally by ABTA.