Thursday, December 1, 2011

Pre/Postnatal Support Group

Today’s guest blogger is Tracy Pickering, Prevention Specialist for Hope House.

Research has shown that women in domestic violence relationships are 25% more likely to experience postpartum depression, increasing to 60% if the woman is in shelter. 

Birth Trauma
One of the newer areas of treatment of postpartum depression is birth trauma. Birth trauma is post-traumatic stress that occurs following the birth of a baby. It can be the result of:

  • a history of domestic or sexual violence
  • non-consensual or forced pregnancy
  • having the abusive partner in the delivery room
The symptoms resemble other types of post-traumatic stress including:
  • nightmares
  • flashbacks of the birth
  • detachment from the baby
In one case, a mom reported having flashbacks of sexual abuse she experienced as a child every time she looked at her baby. I have had several women report being so depressed after the birth of their baby that they thought about killing themselves and their child.

Pre/Postnatal Support Group Formed
In light of this, Hope House started a pre/postnatal support group. We’ve found that the support the clients receive from each other is the most important element. The group offers an opportunity for the women to honestly discuss their feelings about their pregnancy and not feel judged. They seem amazed that other women have the same feelings.

The group offers a supportive environment to discuss the pros/cons of keeping the child, or offering the baby for adoption, without any judgment or guilt.

The clients can discuss their fear of how they will take care of a baby when they don’t have finances to support the children they already have, embarrassment that they are having another child in the circumstances they are in, and their confusion about how the abusive partner will fit into their child’s life.

It is a powerful experience to see the women start to embrace the pregnancy instead of trying to run from it. It is highly important that moms resolve these issues before the birth so that they can be present and focused on the baby, creating the safest, most bonded environment possible.  

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