According to Dr. Snyder, one recent study looking at first-time mothers cites that postpartum PTSD affects 13 percent of individuals just after delivery, and up to 14 percent after six months postpartum. The New York City-based psychiatrist also states that this form of PTSD is usually exhibited alongside other mood disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder. Furthermore, prior trauma, social isolation and antenatal anxiety are risk factors for developing PTSD after a traumatic birth experience.
“Postpartum PTSD is most often derived from a real or perceived trauma during delivery,” said Dr. Snyder. That means that even if the delivery went clinically well, if the parent believes it didn’t, or if they felt or experienced personal trauma, they may still develop PTSD. And if there were actual obstetric complications (such as perineal tearing), the odds of developing PTSD increase tenfold.
After these experiences, is it any wonder so many of us would decide not to go through pregnancy all over again?
The loss of joy and wonder as a pregnant woman is a bit like losing your faith in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, in magic, or in God. Knowing what’s potentially behind the curtain changes something in you. Loss and high-risk pregnancies do that, except many of us don’t talk about it; we don’t want to seem like jerks. Who wants to hurt a pregnant person’s feelings, especially when they’re so happy and excited about what hopefully lies ahead? (And we are excited for you, truly.)
Instead, we vent to one another. We cry and scream; some of us seek outside help. (Dr. Snyder said PTSD is especially treatable via SSRIs and reframing therapies like CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, and EMDR, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing.) And over time, we begin to heal. The weeks and months and years pass, and eventually, we can start to enjoy seeing your ultrasounds, attending your baby showers, going maternity shopping with you, meeting and holding your babies. Some days are harder than others, of course. Some days we’re sad that our bodies don’t always cooperate while growing humans. Some days, our jealousy is hard to hide.
But when I got the news that one of my best friends finally had her baby after trying to get pregnant for so long, and that the delivery went without a hitch, I didn’t fall back into those feelings. Instead, I smiled and texted: “I’m so happy for you! Send me pictures!”