The Doula Issue 39 Autumn 2020 - Flipbook - Page 18
Birth trauma is still something we don’t talk about nearly
enough, and so many people are left feeling a sense of
personal failure. So I invited people to send me their birth
stories, and I analysed them to draw out the key themes.
I set up a website to share them, and also asked other
professionals working with birth trauma to add themselves
to a shared map so that people could find support
Our aim is to do this by targeting prevention as well as
diagnosis and treatment so that people can quickly
We see birth trauma very much as a systemic problem
with system-wide solutions that involve each and every
one of us. Through our campaigning, education and
research we hope to achieve five key goals: change
the prevailing narrative around birth through providing
a platform to hear a wide range of birth stories and
experiences, we aim to reveal the systemic nature of birth
trauma through creating and being involved in research, to
upskill all professionals around the prevention, assessment
and treatment of birth trauma, advocate for wellness in
professionals, and provide information and signposting to
parents and professionals.
Over the next few months, we will be launching our sparkly
new website (much easier to navigate and find resources!),
offer another training course as well as develop an
annual Summit and online training course, establish
our Champions role and continue working alongside
other brilliant organisations supporting their work where
possible. At the moment, our main focus is on sharing
the results of the survey we sent out over lockdown, with
some truly heartbreaking statistics.
Where do you think the biggest ‘black hole’ is in
maternity care? Is it as high up as policy makers,
somewhere around middle management or nearer
That initial campaign put me back in touch with
Dr Rebecca Moore, perinatal psychiatrist, who I had
worked with in Tower Hamlets previously. Becca, who has
a longstanding interest in birth trauma and set up the Birth
Trauma Conference, was planning to bring together
people who were interested in trying to make a change.
We discussed how difficult conversations around birth
could be - how dichotomous these discussions often
become - and agreed there was a need for a platform for
all voices - parents and professionals, and representative
of everyone giving birth not just white, middle class.
heterosexual, able-bodied women! Becca arranged a
meeting in January 2018 and we agreed then to begin
the Make Birth Better campaign. That initial collaboration,
initially with just 8 others, was the beginning of the
network of brilliant individuals and organisations who have
been the backbone of Make Birth Better and supported
us, guided our thinking and kept us motivated!
We officially launched in July 2018, and since then we
have grown to a core team of 6. I took a big step back
from the day to day running of it last December, and
Nikki Wilson came on board as our CEO. Nikki has
worked her socks off since then turning a very passionate
but somewhat disorganised organisation into a fully
functioning CIC with much clearer objectives.
Can you tell us about the future of Make Birth Better?
We have a clear vision - to create a world where people
no longer suffer from birth trauma. We believe so much of
birth trauma is preventable, and even when someone has
had a difficult experience, with the right support this does
not have to become inevitably traumatic.
18 The Doula | Autumn 2020 | © Doula UK
Society? I think so many problems in maternity care stem
from the way in which we treat women and birthing people
when they are pregnant. Women who have been raised
being told they can ‘have it all’ are suddenly spoken to
as if they don’t know how to make the right choices for
their baby and their body, and are pushed through an
overburdened, under-funded system that just doesn’t have
the resource to treat each person as a whole human being
with valid and valued needs and desires. To me, the whole
maternity system needs a shift. But, often, it comes down
to money. Shortcuts have to be made because there just
isn’t the money to provide the staff needed to make a
What are the defining characteristics of ‘Birth
Trauma’? Sometimes it is hard for new families to
differentiate between feelings of overwhelm and
exhaustion following a difficult experience, and
ongoing need for medical help or specialist support.
Birth trauma is a really broad term and confusing in many
ways. It describes symptoms of trauma which may be
related to the birth experience itself or the journey to and
following birth - including the fertility journey, breastfeeding
journey, postnatal experience.
Some women (around 4%) have PTSD after birth, but
many more have some symptoms of trauma but without
meeting diagnostic criteria - we think up to a third of
women find some aspect of their birth traumatic.
It is not unusual to feel overwhelmed and exhausted
even after a birth that wasn’t difficult. Where you might
be looking for trauma would be if someone is very
preoccupied with their birth and birth story, or may be
avoiding talking about it completely. Often you would
hear about feelings of failure and self-criticism around
the birth, I often hear people talking about how they
let down their baby or even the staff.