Updated: Feb 13, 2022
As a new mother, you are excited to bring your new baby home from the hospital. The first couple of weeks pass in a sleep-deprived haze, as you gaze lovingly into your little one's face. You get used to nursing, get into a nap schedule, and get back onto your feet after a few months.
Then something happens that you can't explain. Something about your little one's reaction to the world makes you start to panic in an unexplainable way.
If you have endured childhood trauma yourself, you could be experiencing PTSD, and something about your experience with your baby may have triggered you.
This doesn't mean you are a bad mother.
It doesn't mean that you don't love your baby.
If you are anything like me, PTSD has a tendency to kick in when I perceive that my little one is in danger. If anything, worries for your baby's health and wellbeing actually make you a good mother.
However, if you are experiencing panic as a result of worries about your baby, it is best to consult with your healthcare provider at one of your post-partum visits. If you describe your symptoms, they can provide medication to help, and refer you to a therapist.
If you need to find a therapist, you can read more here:
PTSD occurs when you have undergone a traumatic event. Those of us that suffer with PTSD will often have flashbacks, trouble sleeping, hyper-vigilance, irritability, and often panic attacks. You will keep having intrusive thoughts about the trauma when you wish that you could be thinking about anything else.
You can find the complete criteria for PTSD in my previous blog post.
If you find yourself experiencing symptoms post-partum, many times it is a trigger stemming from your own childhood trauma. If you experienced any kind of trauma in childhood, such as abuse, neglect, poverty, hunger or other types of violence, you may see some of your younger self in your baby.
For me, it was having my mother give my partner "advice" basically telling him that she had neglected me as a child. It cut my scars open, so that the childhood pain felt like a bloody, gaping wound again.
You may also experience post-natal PTSD as a new mom if you have had an especially difficult labor.
If you are having PTSD symptoms, it is important to talk to your medical provider, so that you can get help as soon as possible.
Your medical provider will ask you questions to determine that you do have PTSD, then they may write you a prescription and refer you to a therapist.
Common treatments for PTSD include talk therapy, EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing), medication, group therapy, and CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
If you are still nursing, it may be a good idea to ask your medical provider to prescribe medications that are safe for your baby, as well as effective for you. Otherwise, you may be referred to a Psychiatrist for your medication prescriptions.
When you go to therapy, the first visit will probably consist of getting to know the therapist, and deciding on a course of treatment. You will work together to decide which type of therapy is right for you. You can discuss if you will be doing traditional talk therapy, EMDR, CBT, or another form of treatment.
It is important to remember that in this first visit, you will want to see if you like the therapist and if they seem like a good fit for you. Having a therapist that you can trust and talk to openly is key in your recovery process.
In addition to individual therapy, group therapy may be beneficial as well. When you meet with your therapist, you can discuss this option if it interests you. Being in a group therapy session can be beneficial to talk about your PTSD experience with others who have PTSD as well.
If it makes you feel too vulnerable to open up in person, there are online support groups available too. You can find online support groups on Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, and other social media.
If you have a history of trauma, especially childhood trauma, becoming a mother yourself can be triggering. This does not mean you are a bad mother, or that you don't love your baby.
You can easily get help by speaking to your medical provider, to get referred to a therapist and possibly a psychiatrist. Coping with PTSD is stressful, but when you have support you can manage much better, and enjoy the time with your new baby instead of worrying.
For more information on what I do for my mental health, check out these related blog posts:
For more on my story, check out the PTSD My Story Project!
If you have PTSD and Panic Attacks like I do, I have written an ebook to help in coping with panic attacks. It is now available in the shop.
Let me know what you think in the comments, and if there are additional topics that you would like me to cover in the future.